BT Cellnet and Vodafone have refuted claims from superstore Asda that they are hiking mobile phone prices in the name of profit.
Asda claimed yesterday that BT Cellnet and Vodafone “tore up their deals and unveiled a hike in the cost price of their phones”.
The American owned supermarket confirmed on Wednesday that it was in the process of finalising a complaint to Oftel, reporting BT Cellnet and Vodafone for “unjustifiable increases” in the cost price of their prepay packages.
Sioned Rees-Thomas, Asda’s home and leisure business director, said: “BT and Cellnet want to introduce higher charges and put the low price genie back in the bottle. We thought the networks were prepared to see mobile users get a better deal. Unless the regulator acts fast, we may be wrong.”
Tesco has also expressed disapproval to the changes. A Tesco spokesman said: “We’re very unhappy and disappointed with the companies. We are currently in discussions to try and keep the prices as low as possible.”
He added: “We promised our customers a good service and we want to continue to do so.”
BT Cellnet has “totally refuted” Asda’s accusations. The company confirmed, however, that from 1 September it will be changing the mix of its wholesale pricing and will no longer be subsidising prepay handsets.
Many mobile phone customers have been left unable to use their pay as you go mobile handsets after the supermarkets slashed their prices earlier this month. BT Cellnet confirmed that the huge volume of subsidised prepay phones being sold had led to the pricing changes.
“No one foresaw that the acceleration in unit demand would outstrip customer call volumes in the short to medium term. Lower than expected levels of billable usage, and a higher than expected level of sales of phones have therefore necessitated these changes,” the company stated.
BT Cellnet added: “We monitor our wholesale pricing on an ongoing basis and this is a commercial decision to reflect current market conditions.”
Vodafone announced that it will reduce subsidies to its distributors, but denied they were restricting the retail prices of their ‘Pay as You Talk’ mobiles.
A spokesperson said: “This is a normal business procedure which we have done on many occasions including earlier this year.”
“We haven’t had the same problem as other operators as we were prepared for the increase in interest, but we make pricing changes when we feel it is necessary. Our 6.5 million existing customers as well as new ones expect and demand a quality of service.”
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