11 ways mobile phone companies rinse everybody

How to negotiate a contract

Negotiating a phone contract is like arm-wrestling with Thor: you may be humoured for a little while but eventually, inevitably, you'll lose. Mobile phone providers will rip you off before, after and during your time with them. Below are eleven ways they're doing it.

Have any stories of your own? Comment below.

1. Putting you on a rolling contract

mobile rolling contract

...with no reminders to upgrade. Perhaps one text, if you're lucky.

More likely, though, your provider will happily let you keep using your phone even if you're technically off-contract.

Why aren't they in a hurry to sign you up to something new? Because the final month in a contract is the best time to bargain for a new phone, and when they're most likely to cut the best deal. Once you're on a rolling contract, they're making money out of you - yet your bargaining power is much diminished. Yay.

2. Contract renewal teams who do nothing

You're call is very important

Call up with good intentions to renew your contract, look for a better price and more often than not, you'll be met with a friendly incompetent who tries to flog a contract anyone can find online. Oh, and of course, they'll charge though the roof for the call itself.

Instead, ask immediately to leave - mention you want your 'pac code' and you've found a better deal elsewhere. This is the only way to negotiate a contract: play tough.

3. Charges abroad

phone abroad charges

They didn't mention this in the shop, did they? Your unlimited texts, calls and internet are only unlimited inside the UK. Talk about frustrating.

When you'e abroad, you're 'roaming', and guess what? Roaming costs. So pop into your settings and turn 'data roaming' off - if you don't, you could face charges of £100s. Seriously. If you're desperate for internet, connect to the local wifi and never run off your 3G or 4G.

Make use of the wifi and download Skype for your calls - after all, it's free.

Some mobile providers offer packages for roaming abroad for an extra charge each month. Unless you're abroad frequently yet only use your phone out occasionally, these add-on packages won't be worth what you pay for them.

Did you know that if someone calls you, you can be charged? For regular calls, remind your family and friends not to call you - and to text instead, which is free, provided you're inside the EU.

4. They actively undersell

active underselling

Mobile phone salesmen are a rare breed, insofar as they are the only people working on the highstreet who actively undersell; one quick glance at your account and they’ll happily say you needn’t upgrade too far.

You’ll have a few more quid squeezed out of you for a handful of extra gigabytes and walk away feeling relatively unscathed. Then you get your new toy, watch one video too many, repeat a song too often or simply have the audacity to read the news every now and then, and find yourself landed with heinous charges.

Basically, they tell you needn't upgrade too far, just so you end up paying more to them overall by way of extra charges.

Remember, you know your phone usage better than anybody: if you think you need unlimited internet, you probably do.

5. Offering bad value 'upgrades'

bad value upgrades

These are clever traps which are all too easy to fall for.

Any 'amazing' bargain ends up being a rip-off, but it mightn't be obvious. Take, for instance, an offer an upgrade to 4G, with the only condition that you'll have a lower data limit. There'll be reassurances that your current usage is so low that isn't a risk. Of course, there'll be no mention that those with 4G burn through data significantly more quickly than those on 3G (which renders the new, lower limit entirely inadequate). Which can only mean one thing: more charges!

The lesson? Stay sceptical. Always ask for a list of the terms and conditions and never sign up to to something then and there, no matter how 'urgent' the call makes it sound. These are sales people, remember: the quicker they make a sale, the quicker they get paid. Take your time to properly assess the deal.

6. Taking advantage of ignorance

taking advantage

'Knowledge is power.' So said Sir Francis Bacon, after a particularly brutal clash with 02. Phone companies aren’t on your side; if you don’t know what you really want, they’ll take advantage. Google for the phone you want and then search the best deals and jot these down, or they'll sell you a package with is neither competitive or reasonable and is simply profitable for them.

Unsure whether a phone is any good? Tech Crunch, TechRadar, T3, Cnet and TrustedReviews are all sites worth checking out - between them, you'll find a balanced opinion.

7. Apps you can't uninstall

the it crowd apps

Thanks guys, really appreciate it.

So this isn't the biggest rip off of all time, of course, but it's pretty annoying if you're comparing phones side-by-side for best value handset.

Comparing memory capability? Watch out for 'bloatware' (the junk preloaded onto phones that can't be deleted): it reduces the amount of usable memory. If you want to compare phones like-for-like, go in store.

Camera quality is equally overblown online - the photos companies use to promote their product are usually taken by professional photographers, giving an entirely misleading impression of the cameras true capability. Besides, a camera is about more than picture quality: you need to know you can use it and no online guide is a substitute for trying it yourself.

8. No signal

no phone signal
Frustrating. Gah. It isn't making them money, but you aren't getting what you paid for. So frustrating. Have a look through the App Store and Google Play for 'signal booster' apps. EE customers can use Orange's custom-made 'Signal Boost' too (search their website for further details).

9. No decent replacement phone

You deserve an adequate replacement, not some circa-2000 Nokia - although admittedly, having Snake again is a thrill. You're paying for it, after all. If your phone is in for repair and they don't provide a suitable replacement, you're effectively paying for a couple of weeks with the wrong phone.

replacement phone

If one store can't help you, use another. If you only have one shop in your town, they should be able to source a suitable replacement by post - be firm and demand one.

10. Insurance

mobile insurance

If you have contents insurance, you may already be covered, so don't pay completely unnecessary extra costs - especially as insurance deals offered in store tend not to be the most competitive.

NB: There is a huge caveat here. Make sure you absolutely have another form of insurance. We recommend Endsleigh gadget insurance- read this guide to student insurance for details.

11. Offering you what you don't want

cake in face
All those incessant calls and texts offering you new products? Horrendous.

They'll plug away over and over with phones, tablets and all sorts of things that you simply don't want, or need. The thing is, having an iPad for an extra £10 a month does seem quite appealing - but if you actually wanted one, wouldn't you have already bought it? Don't get sold into products you don't want, simply because they're sold to you as good value by a charming voice on the end of the line.

Now that you know what to look out for, check out our Mobile Phone Deals Page!