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Mobile Phone Providers 'Set People Up To Fail'

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Mobile phone providers have been accused of "setting customers up to fail" in a new study into debt.

The report identified a series of poor practises employed by mobile phone companies which were often playing a "significant role" in people getting into financial trouble.

The Falling Behind report, released by the Citizens Advice charity, analysed some 26,000 cases from 2015. 

In some providers did not properly assess whether customers could afford their contract, Citizens Advice said.

In others, individuals were able to take out multiple phone contracts despite already being in debt.

One person had more than £3,000 in debts across six different phone contracts.

Some customers were allowed to rack up hundreds or even thousands of pounds in debt on extras not covered by their contracts including app purchases, texting a donation to a charity or calling premium rate lines such as directory enquiries, the report found.

It concluded that their record on resolving disputes, setting affordable repayment plans and contactability made mobile phone firms the worst debt collectors in the private sector.

"Our evidence shows companies too often don't set affordable debt repayment plans, escalate debts too quickly and fail to co-operate with debt advisers," Citizens Advice chief executive Gillian Guy said.

"In some extreme cases companies set customers up to fail by offering them contracts they can't afford to repay."

The report recommended that mobile phone providers allow customers to set their own monthly spending caps, similar to those available for credit card users.

It also suggested free debt advice for customers experiencing financial difficulties.

"Other sectors that deal with essential services have improved how they handle debts in recent years so mobile phone firms have no excuse for dragging their heels," Mr Guy said.

"Giving customers the chance to set a cap on their bills will give consumers more power and help ensure they don't build up unaffordable charges.

"The  UK Government can also help by ensuring people can access free and independent money advice to avoid getting into debt in the first place," he added.

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