MILLIONS of mobile phone customers face increases to their monthly bills of as much as 10% as the four network operators ramp up charges in the next few months.
BT Group, Virgin Media O2, Vodafone, and Three UK all plan to increase tariffs in April, as phone calls and data become another ingredient in the growing cost-of-living crisis.
Virgin Mobile will raise airtime prices for all customers by 3.9% plus the Retail Price Index rate, presently standing at 7.1%.
O2 is imposing the same RPI rise for users who signed up after March 25 last year, but longer-standing customers dodge the 3.9% bump.
All of the recently-merged group’s customers will escape the re-introduction of roaming charges for access in the EU.
BT, which bases its price increase on the lower Consumer Price Index will inform its customers - including those on its EE network - of the raise to their bills next month. CPI currently stands at 5.1%.
Tesco Mobile, which runs on O2’s network, fixes its tariff for the lifetime of the contract but is hiking charges for use of bolt-on data, airtime and messages beyond the monthly allowance.
A spokesman for Virgin Media O2 said: “We always balance keeping our prices competitive with the need to continue investing in our network, innovating and improving the services that our customers know and love.
“Our contracts make clear prices are set to rise later this year and we will keep customers updated on any changes to their bill.”
A BT spokesman said: “As usage across our networks continues to increase and with our customers relying on us for connectivity more than ever before, it’s crucial we continue to invest in our network, services and the latest technology.
“As such our prices are due to rise from March 31 as per our terms and conditions, however, customers on BT Home Essentials, BT Basic and Home Phone Saver will not see an increase to their prices in 2022 and we’re looking in to how we can help support others who may be financially vulnerable.”
Vodafone UK said: “We know no one wants to see prices increase, but these reflect the rising costs that we continue to face in running our network and providing our services.
“Like many other industries, we face rising costs of energy, staffing, logistics and transport.
"Unlike many other industries, we also have costs from the regulator – who has elected to maintain multi-million pound licence fees for spectrum usage – and from Government, who have required us to make significant and costly changes to our supply chain.
"These annual price increases are essential for us to maintain investment in our network and services while the costs that we face continue to rise.”
Three UK said: “Like other mobile providers, our pay monthly plans are subject to an annual price change. We implement an annual fixed percentage increase of 4.5%, which will be applied in April.
“We believe that integral to a great customer experience is certainty and transparency. With a fixed price change compared to the variable and unpredictable increases applied by others, customers will not have to rely on a fluctuating RPI or CPI rate to clearly understand the full cost of their contract.
“Central to providing the best possible service and range of products is our network, and we must invest more to deliver on this. We are investing £2 billion-plus in the UK’s fastest 5G network to ensure we have a strong network, capable of delivering better connectivity, every day, for every customer.”
In a note to investors published on Bloomberg, Adam Fox-Rumley at HSBC cautioned: “Investors should be supportive should companies choose to moderate price rises this year.
“Far from just generating immediate goodwill with customers and politicians, it would in turn bolster the sustainability of the pricing structure into the longer term.”
A spokesman for watchdog Ofcom said: “While Ofcom doesn’t set retail prices, we strongly urge telecoms providers to take account of the growing financial pressures on their customers when considering increases."