Running out of data is one of the most irritating things about owning a mobile phone. All it takes is for you to check Facebook more often than usual, or stream a few too many songs, and you end up having to choose between going without for the rest of the month or facing extra charges on your bill.
Surprisingly, O2 has come up with a solution: flexible tariffs. It's one of those ideas that's so simple it's almost surprising it wasn't already in effect. The company is giving its customers the ability to change how much their contract will cost them each month to take into effect how much data they use.
This means that if you want to splurge and watch Netflix wherever you are, you can increase your tariff to £41 to get 50GB of data per month. On the other hand, if you want to cut back – or just aren't using that much – you can reduce the amount you get and pay as little as £19 per month.
O2 prevents users from accessing mobile data once they have reached their limit – albeit with the ability to buy more if they want – so there are no charges for exceeding your allowance. The idea behind this scheme is to allow customers to tailor their tariffs to the data they actually use, giving them an increased level of control.
O2's CEO Mark Evans said: “Today’s customers want even greater flexibility and control over what they’re spending. Generation Flex expect more from their services and we believe mobile contracts should be no different.”
The flexible tariffs will be adjustable from the MyO2 app, although customers can also change how much they pay by calling O2 or visiting a store. In total, users will be able to alter their bill once per billing month.
In part, this move is a reaction to the news that many UK phone providers are continuing to charge consumers for handsets that have already been paid off through their monthly contracts. O2 has campaigned against this practice for some time, launching O2 Refresh in 2013, which prevented their customers from being charged in this manner.
“Forcing customers to continue to pay for a phone they already own not only hits their pockets but undermines trust and the reputation of the industry,” Mr Evans added. “We’d like to see the other operators review their position and follow our lead with transparent tariffs that put customers in control.”
However, O2 is also highlighting how it can help users manage their general costs, pointing out that interest is at a five-year high in the UK. Many people are worried about their cost of living, but for the most part, phone contracts are a cost you are stuck with. The new flexible tariffs will change this, giving consumers the much-needed ability to cut back if they need to.