Yet that is exactly what nearly four million Britons do, paying every month for phones they already own.
Customers are often unaware they are being charged for handsets after their initial minimum contract expires, and only need to continue paying for calls, texts and data, according to new research from Citizens Advice.
It said three of Britain’s biggest mobile phone networks, EE, Three and Vodafone, routinely charge customers extra for handsets that have been paid off.
Citizens Advice is calling on them to make their pricing more transparent by separating the cost of the phone and usage, as mobile network O2 already does.
Are you making a bad call by paying twice? Bad bundle Citizens Advice said the confusion comes where the cost of the handset and the mobile tariff are “bundled” together, so users cannot see how much they are paying for each.
It analysed more than 700 different bundles and found three quarters were more expensive than splitting phone costs from usage.
More than one in three users go beyond their minimum contract period, on average for six months at a cost of £22 a month, rising to as much as £38 for high-end phones such as an iPhone 7 or Samsung Galaxy, with providers earning £490million as a result.
Older people are twice as likely to be charged for a phone they have already owned for more than 12 months, costing them on average £264, and watchdog Ofcom is consulting on how to address the problem.
It proposes to send a one-off notification to the 3.7million mobile customers whose packages continue to rollover despite being beyond their minimum contract term.
However, Citizens Advice said this does not go far enough.
Chief executive Gillian Guy said it is unacceptable that mobile providers are “knowingly overcharging” customers for phones they already own: “Other companies have stopped doing this so we are looking for these three major providers to follow suit.”
Time to split A Three spokesperson said it makes contract lengths clear to customers and is working closely with the Government and regulators on proposed changes.
EE said it is proactive, contacting customers to inform them of their choices: “The vast majority upgrade or move to new contracts before the end of their existing contract, often getting better value than if they were on a split contract.”
Vodafone said it contacts customers near the end of their minimum term to explain their options, such as upgrading or switching to a SIM-only deal.
From next month, it will give extra data to those customers who choose to stay on their contract. Ernest Doku, mobile expert at comparison site uSwitch.com, said that the Citizens Advice suggestion of separating handset and usage costs would still leave customers at risk from overpaying.
New “flexi” tariffs, offered by O2, Sky, Tesco and Virgin, aim to prevent customers from paying double by running separate contracts for airtime and handset, but they can actually cost up to 38 per cent extra, he warned.
Switching to a SIM-only deal, where you pay for minutes, texts and data but not the handset, could offer significant savings.
“Especially given how much data costs drop from year to year,” Doku added.
Ring the changes Once your minimum contract has ended you are free to leave without penalty, and should shop around.
Sites such as GoCompare.com, MoneySupermarket.com and uSwitch.com allow you to compare handset and usage prices.
If happy with your existing provider then consider haggling to get a better deal.
Britons spend big money on mobile phones these days, with four out of 10 willing to go beyond £1,000, according to research from GlobalWebIndex.
The trick is to avoid dialling up further costs for something you have already paid off.