PHONE companies will be the next corporate giants targeted by Labour for ripping off their customers, a North-East MP has revealed.

Helen Goodman, her party’s communications spokesman, accused the big firms of costing the average family around £100 a year, through no fewer than nine dodgy charges.

And she criticised the Government for failing to act, with no measures included in last week’s Queen’s Speech, the last of the parliament.

Loading article content

The Bishop Auckland MP said: “People are still facing a cost of living crisis. One component of this is what people are spending on telecoms.

“The Government have totally failed to address this and so most people are spending £100 each year more than they need to.

“At a time when family budgets are under pressure this shows how out of touch and careless these ministers are.”

Among the “rip-offs” targeted by Ms Goodman are:

* Charges for exceeding data limits – with no “clear warning system” for alerting customers when they are approaching the allowance limits in their contracts.

* Mid-contract price rises - watchdog Ofcom has announced plans to ensure people can quit contracts without penalty after price hikes, but they will not kick in for two years.

* Switching – the UK and India are the only countries in the world where the company losing a customer is responsible for managing the switching process.

* Unsuitable contracts – research by consumer group Which? found three quarters of UK mobile users were on an unsuitable contract, leading to an overpayment of £6bn. But Ofcom’s powers were inadequate – and it feared a lengthy battle if it acted.

* 0800 helplines – proposals for the likes of Child Line and pension services to be free from mobiles, as well as landlines, will not come into effect until next year.

* Nuisance calls - privacy packages cost between £86 and £146 each year, but TalkTalk had shown it could be done for free.

Ms Goodman added: “Again, the government’s response has been slow and weak. We want free caller ID, a free 1571 service and a one-stop shop for complaints.

“Labour would act to help people manage their bills and bring down costs. This government is failing to stand up for the average consumer

Labour leader Ed Miliband enjoyed a surge in popularity when, last year, he vowed to freeze energy bills for 20 months, before changing the energy market.

He has also vowed to take on other vested interests, including the high street banks and private landlords, but has been accused of a return to damaging, anti-market “1970s policies”.