(Telecompaper) UK communications regulator Ofcom has outlined an action plan to tackle the problem of unexpectedly high phone bills for consumers. This follows an extensive review into the causes of 'bill shock', which concluded that mobile contract customers were the most likely to be affected by this problem. The research found that up to 1.4 million contract mobile phone customers could have been affected by 'bill shock' in the last six months. The regulator will now co-operate with the mobile industry on a range of measures to address the main issues raised by the review. However, if these fail to significantly reduce consumer harm, Ofcom may consider mandatory options. Ofcom wants providers to do more to educate customers on how to avoid bill shock. The review showed that the main causes of bill shock were: downloading data, primarily while travelling outside the EU; using mobile voice services in the UK, mainly by exceeding inclusive allowances or calling numbers outside of allowances; and lost or stolen phones, where the level of financial harm can be substantial. Ofcom also found that consumers have low levels of awareness about how to protect themselves and can find it difficult to find information about data charges from their provider. It is urging mobile providers to voluntarily introduce worldwide financial caps and alerts prior to any new EU roaming legislation coming into effect. If the EU decides not to extend the existing protection, and if all providers do not agree to introduce financial caps and alerts voluntarily, Ofcom will consider whether to consult on intervening to protect consumers.
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