Virgin Mobile and O2 customers face 17.3% increase to phone airtime bills

Customers of O2 and Virgin Mobile face 17.3 per cent increases to their mobile phone airtime bills from April.

Millions of households face increases of around 15 per cent to their phone and broadband bills by April 1 as providers pass on inflation-linked rises.

But some of the highest increases unveiled so far will be paid by those with Virgin Media and O2 – albeit only for the airtime portion of customers’ bills.

The 17.3 per cent increase is based on the February 2022 inflation figure of 13.4 per cent, plus an extra 3.9 per cent margin.

It applies to the firms’ airtime plans, which cover the cost of minutes, texts and data. The price of handsets is not going up.

Airtime increases: the cost of using a phone is going up for customers of Virgin Media O2, but the cost of the phones themselves are not

Virgin Mobile and O2 are part of the same company, Virgin Media O2, after a 2021 merger, but still operate as separate brands.

A spokesperson for the firm said the price increases were due to increased investment and rising costs.

A Virgin Media O2 spokesperson said: ‘We know that price increases are never welcome but, unlike other providers, we freeze the cost of device repayments and are only changing our airtime prices, meaning average bills will go up by an effective 10 per cent, or less than 10 pence per day.’ 

How to save money on mobile phone bills 

Not all phone firms will increase prices this year, and not all tariffs will go up significantly, but some homes do face significant tariff changes. 

Fortunately there are a few ways to bring down the cost of your mobile phone bills. 

1) Work out what you REALLY need

These deals vary in terms of what you get and what you are charged. If you are at the end of your contract, or want to take out your first one, think about what you really need from a mobile phone deal.

Why are mobile and broadband prices going up so much? 

Broadband and mobile firms typically put their prices up based on two measures of inflation: the Consumer Price Index (CPI), published in January, and the Retail Price Index (RPI), as published in February.

How this normally works is providers take RPI or CPI, add on 3-4 per cent and hike their rates by that figure.

2) Consider a Sim-only deal

If you already own a mobile phone handset, or can get one cheaply, you may be able to save money with a cheap Sim-only deal.

This is because most mobile phone contracts sell you two things – the phone and the cost of using it. If you already have the phone, you just have to worry about the cost of calls, texts and data.

Comparison experts Uswitch say customers can save up to £321 by taking out a Sim-only deal.

Users will need to make sure they don’t exceed the limits stated when they sign up. If they do, extra charges could apply – and these can be expensive.

3) Consider a refurbished phone

Instead of buying a brand new phone, see if there is a refurbished one that suits your needs. These are phones that have been overhauled by experts to replace broken parts and improve their operation.

They work out considerably cheaper than new phones. For example, an iPhone 13 costs around £600 to £700 for a new handset, whereas refurbished models cost approximately £500.

These savings are even greater for less in-demand phones, or older models.

Most Samsung Galaxy phones released in the last five years normally cost no more than £200 when refurbished, for example, but cost up to four times that amount new.

Cost cutter: If you already own a mobile phone handset, or can get one cheaply, you may be able to save money with a cheap Sim-only deal

Cost cutter: If you already own a mobile phone handset, or can get one cheaply, you may be able to save money with a cheap Sim-only deal

4) Be prepared to haggle

As your existing contract comes to an end, haggling with your provider can save you money.

Do your research first, and come prepared with some of the best deals you have found elsewhere. Mention any issues you have had with your current provider, as this can give you an edge in any negotiations.

If you are not happy with whatever offer your provider makes you, say you are prepared to leave. This can lead to better deals miraculously appearing.

5) Be prepared to switch

If you cannot get a deal you are happy with from your current provider, consider switching away.

6) Sell back unused data to Sky

If you have a Sky mobile deal you can cash unused data in, and use it to get money off new phones, tablets and accessories. For example, selling back 25GB of unused data gets you £10 off a new phone or tablet.

7) Check if you can get a social tariff

There are three social tariffs for mobile phone customers. Sim-only deals may work out cheaper, so even if you are eligible for a social tariff, make sure to look into those too. 

Smarty social tariff

Smarty, a sub-brand of Three, offers unlimited calls, texts and data for £12 a month. To be eligible, would-be customers need to be claiming Income-based Employment Support Allowance, Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Pension Credit or Universal Credit.

Voxi For Now tariff

This gives unlimited minutes and unlimited 5G data for £10 a month. Customers need to be on Jobseeker’s Allowance, Universal Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Disability Allowance or Personal Independence Payment.

EE Basics

This provides unlimited minutes with 5GB of data for £12 a month. Customers will need to be claiming Universal Credit, the Guarantee Credit element of Pension Credit, Employment and Support Allowance, Jobseeker’s Allowance or Income Support to qualify.