U.K. Mobile-Phone Companies Agree to Cap Unexpected Charges

Four of the U.K.’s largest mobile-phone companies agreed to implement measures to reduce unexpected charges, after coming under pressure from government ministers keen to show they’re helping consumers.

Vodafone Group Plc; EE, which is co-owned by Orange SA and Deutsche Telekom AG; Three, owned by Hutchison Whampoa Ltd.; and Virgin Media Inc. said they will cap bills run up on phones reported lost or stolen, stop mid-contract price increases, and support the government in its attempt to end roaming charges within the European Union, the government said today.

With prices rising faster than wages since the recession, Prime Minister David Cameron’s government has come under pressure to help squeezed voters. U.K. power companies announced yesterday they will cut prices for consumers after Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne pledged to scale back government green levies to ease the cost of living.

“We are ensuring hard-working families are not hit with shock bills through no fault of their own,” Culture Secretary Maria Miller, whose departments oversees telecommunications, said in an e-mailed statement. “Families can be left struggling if carefully planned budgets are blown away by unexpected bills from a stolen mobile or a mid-contract price rise. This agreement with the telecoms companies will deliver real benefits to consumers and help ensure people are not hit with shock bills.”

BT Group Plc, British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc and TalkTalk Telecom Group Plc also agreed to back the plan to eliminate roaming charges in the EU, the government said.