Mobile phone industry 'must be better regulated'

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Media captionGeoff Lloyd thought his son's phone bill had been capped

The mobile phone industry needs better regulation to stop people getting in debt, Citizens Advice Cymru has said.

It also wants action to stop mobile phone companies using what appeared to be "bullying tactics" to pursue debts.

This comes after EE had to pay Geoff Lloyd £3,741.80 in damages and costs in a court case for wrongly charging him thousands of pounds.

EE said Dr Lloyd received "standard automated letters requesting the unsettled payments on his account".

Dr Lloyd, from Pontypridd, Rhondda Cynon Taff, took out a phone contract for his son, which he thought was capped at £13.99 a month.

He wanted a restricted contract as his son had previously run up large phone bills.

But he said he was "gobsmacked" when he received a letter from the bank saying EE was trying to withdraw £1,500 from his account.

"I thought it must be a dreadful mistake so I went to the bank only to find that they'd already taken £1,000 out the month before and several hundred pounds out previous to that too."

He ended up having to pay EE more than £3,500 over five months.

Image caption EE said Mr Lloyd's contract made no reference to a cap on charges

Dr Lloyd said EE was intimidating and used "bullying tactics" to pursue the debt.

He said it was very difficult to speak to anyone directly, he tried calling many times, and while he was in the process of disputing it, debt collectors got in touch with him.

"I had a letter first of all saying they were going to destroy my credit rating if I didn't pay them there and then.

"A week later I had another letter saying they were going to send bailiffs round to collect belongings to that value from my house."

An EE spokesman said the contract Mr Lloyd signed "made no reference to a cap of this nature and clearly stated any usage which falls outside of the plan would be charged at EE's standard out of bundle rate".

He said there were ways customers could monitor their usage and options such as pay as you go were available for anyone wanting to control their usage.

"In this case the Communications and Internet Services Adjudication Scheme... ruled that Mr Lloyd was not eligible to receive a refund on this basis," he added.

"As a result, the balance remained outstanding and Mr Lloyd continued to receive our standard automated letters requesting the unsettled payments on his account."

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Citizens Advice deals with about 62,000 complaints a year about mobile phone contracts and debts.

Spokesman Alun Thomas said: "We strongly believe that mobile phones should be regulated the same as water, electricity and gas to strengthen the rights of consumers.

"At the moment, if you want a credit card, you have to make an application for a credit card, the company will look at what you can afford to pay and will set a limit for that."

Dr Lloyd said: "I could afford to pay [the bill], but for other people it might mean they couldn't keep up with their mortgage repayment, they could have their house repossessed.

He donated the money he received back from EE to charity.

A spokeswoman for Ofcom, the industry regulator, said: "We have been working with Citizens Advice and the mobile providers to address many of the issues raised here.

"We would also expect providers to behave responsibly when dealing with consumers who have difficulty paying for services. If Citizens Advice Cymru have evidence of bullying and intimidation, we would welcome sight of that evidence."

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