Most mobile phone tariffs seem like a thinly veiled scam even at the best of times, but Ofcom-approved tariff comparison site Bill Monitor has calculated the full extent of the problem. According to its research, 76% of UK mobile phone subscribers are wasting an average of £194 a month on unnecessary — that amounts to a financial waste of almost £5 billion each year across the whole population.

The figures are based on actual data taken from over 28,000 anonymised mobile phone bills rather than mere statistical projection, and the research was carried out by a couple of mathematical boffins from Oxford University.

As anyone who’s tried to figure out which mobile phone deal is most cost effective will know, making sense of the variety of tariffs and call charges is an extremely difficult task — and one that gets considerably more complicated once data use for mobile internet access is included. (Bill Monitor claims to use some 8,134,979 different deals for its comparison service.)

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Bill Monitor’s research is based upon comparing customers’ actual bills with the best available tariff for how they actually use their phones. In other words, a deal where the customer only pays no more than they should.

The amount of wasted money is substantial and the research concluded that:

  • 52% of customers wasting money are on a tariff that’s too large for them, using on average just one quarter of their monthly calling allowance — total waste: £2.62 billion.
  • 29% of customers wasting money are on too small a tariff, wasting money on out of allowance calls, texts, data usage as well as other costs that could be reduced with a larger tariff — total waste: £1.53 billion.
  • 19% have the right level of inclusive minutes but are wasting money by not optimising free benefits, data & text allowances as well as other costs, or taking advantage of lower costs from 24 month contracts — total waste: £0.74 billion.

The full report is available online if you’re having trouble sleeping one night, but even so, it’s worth plugging your mobile phone bill data into the Bill Monitor site to see how much you could save by switching contracts.

[Bill Monitor]