Updated: Tue, 12 Nov 2013 19:31:49 GMT | By Press Association

Debt warning over smartphones

A debt advice charity has raised fears of surging numbers of people struggling to pay for "expensive" smartphone deals after seeing the number of cries for help with phones generally more than treble over a five-year period.

People are struggling to pay for "expensive" smartphone deals

People are struggling to pay for "expensive" smartphone deals

A debt advice charity has raised fears of surging numbers of people struggling to pay for "expensive" smartphone deals after seeing the number of cries for help with phones generally more than treble over a five-year period.

The Money Advice Trust (MAT) dealt with 17,766 calls to its National Debtline from people about telephone debt last year, compared with 5,830 in 2007, the year the iPhone was launched.

The trust is on course to deal with record calls for help with telephone debt this year, with 13,389 calls on the subject between January and August, a 15% increase on the same period a year ago.

It said that in 2007, one in 25 calls (4%) were about phone debt, but this proportion has soared to one in nine (11%). The charity suggested that the rising use of smartphones is a factor behind the increased number of calls.

Many people see smartphones as a must-have product and according to Ofcom figures around two-fifths (39%) of UK adults own one.

Technology experts say the launch of Apple's iPhone six years ago shook up the market and prompted other providers to launch rival products.

Joanna Elson, chief executive of the MAT, said: "Smartphones have in many ways revolutionised our lives, but we've certainly been made to pay for the privilege.

"A family of four with two parents and two teenagers could quite easily be paying around £140 a month for all four to have a smartphone - more than the average UK energy bill.

"For 42% of smartphone owners, the phone is their sole internet access point, so they are quite reliant on keeping it running."

Ms Elson said that when people take out a contract for a smartphone, they are "in effect taking out a loan to pay for the handset".

She continued: "When people fall foul of that monthly fee, they can find themselves with a growing debt problem. The figures suggest this is happening more often in line with more people taking out expensive smartphone contracts."

Ms Elson said there should be responsibility "on both sides" and people should only take on contracts after carefully considering whether they can afford them, while mobile phone companies should treat consumers in financial difficulty with understanding.

She said people can seek free advice on budgeting and prioritising their debts through the charity's online tool www.mymoneysteps.org.

11/11/2013 12:48
I am a pensioner and have a old iphone from my daughter a PAYG sim and switched off everything else, if I need the internet I wait till I go home. I survived my younger years by using a phone in a big red box when I was out, checking facebook or whatever when you are out is not a priority.
11/11/2013 11:36

The trouble is mainly outright stupidity. You can clearly see how much it will cost you, and how much usage you get for that. You can check anytime to see how much usage you have left. If people can't use these responsibly and buy things they can't afford, what can the phone comapny actually do?


Why can't people just take responsibility for their own actions? Let's say I have a credit card. I can go wild and max it out, but that would be my own stupid fault. I can keep that there in case of an emergency (which is what mine is kept for), or I can use it and pay it back each month (though I've never worked out why someone would do that).

11/11/2013 15:37
what did we do before these phones and social media  oh that's right we had a life
11/11/2013 12:30

Smart phones are no different to anything else in life, if you can't afford them don't buy them.  Why do some people insist on buying things they don't actually "need" spending money they can't afford. If they must have a mobile phone for genuine communications then a cheap PAYG phone is adequate.

People need to use common sense.

11/11/2013 12:17
You people never understand. You want things and then complain that you got to pay for them. Credit cards and contracts for a phone and car and more. Get a prepaid phone and buy cash and you will live happy.
11/11/2013 13:42

I have a reasonable smart phone on contract. It costs me about £10 a month. I knew I cold afford that just fine. It has plenty on it, it's just not a top of the range. And it's actually cheaper than using PAYG. Yes, those nice shiny £40 a month phones look good. There's just no way I'd pay that for a phone.


Be realistic and life often turns out fine.

11/11/2013 14:15

People are obsessed with social media, and rack up massive data usage. I know people who live and breath facebook, twitter, Instagram and Whatsapp. Why???  First and foremost avoid the new iphones and Samsung's and go for an older model with generous data/mins allowance. Buying a new smartphone will cost at least £40 a month for 2 years (£960), that's not including non inclusive minutes.


With the smartphone technology increasing all the time, the cost of that technology increases with the phone, making the monthly price too much.


Reset your data on your bill date every month, so you can log your usage and switch to wifi at home and where its free and available- simples!





11/11/2013 13:07

And I bet a lot of these phone users are ones already complaining about the price of food, petrol, energy and saying that they cannot afford to live and stay warm.

Last year a 15 year old girl? on holiday abroad with her mother ran up a bill in a couple of weeks of 3 thousand pounds or thereabouts and the mother blamed the phone company even though they text the girl with the charges and she told them to carry on. Serves them right.

11/11/2013 16:03
It's about time the government stopped mobile shops from advertising FREE telephones and putting people in a false sense of mind. Nothing free in this world and in Asia where I use to live, they use the more apt., word of promotion to attract customers. More civilised than ROB.
11/11/2013 17:13

Most posters here are absolutely right. It is no-ones fault other than your own if you rack up a huge bill. Warnings are sent by text and often are ignored by these shallow, social media addicts who really ought to get out and actually meet people.

I have no sympathy whatsoever for these morons.

I still see people in supermarkets who cannot pay at the till. WHY FILL THE SODDIN' TROLLEY THEN???


11/11/2013 13:54

I hear and understand many of the calls for personal responsibility on the part of buyers and partly agree.

However, advertising is now a psychological discipline and those people well versed in these dark arts know just which buttons to press and when so let's not lay all of the blame on purchasers.

Especially where impressionable children or teenagers are concerned.

11/11/2013 19:23
If you can't afford it don't have it. Simple!
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