BEING part of a community known for faithfully following the flag, British military families are well-versed in shipping themselves and their lives wherever in the world they are needed.
Sitting alongside each military move’s “nuts and bolts” are a host of financial factors to be taken into consideration. Until recently, one of those factors – namely what to do with existing mobile phone contracts – was a source of frustration for many of you.
Having agreed lengthy contracts in one location, some of you posted to a different region, country or even continent were finding yourselves unable to access your mobile network.
Even worse, early cancellation of the now-useless agreements entailed paying penalty fees that could run into hundreds of pounds.
AFF has been highlighting these issues for some time, gathering evidence from you to put to policy makers and service providers. And now, thanks to cooperation between the Ministry of Defence and the likes of Vodafone, Three, EE and O2, the nomadic nature of Service life is being formally recognised by the nation’s major providers.
New policies being rolled out will allow you to suspend contracts for up to two years during overseas postings.
Kate McCullough, AFF’s Covenant Liaison, explained that the changes are an important step in ensuring that Armed Forces families are not left out of pocket as a result of their relationship with the military.
“People use mobiles so much these days and if you are posted, then a mobile phone can be a lifeline which enables you to maintain contact,” she said.
“What families have wanted is the flexibility to be able to suspend contracts.
“They don’t want anything extra – they just don’t want to be disadvantaged and they don’t want to have the stress of wondering how they can get out of a contract or how much it is going to cost them if they can’t.”
Under the offers being provided by Britain’s main networks, hundreds of Service families will be able to suspend their contracts during overseas postings.
Vodafone military customers and three of their family members, for example, will now be able to put their contracts on hold for up to two years, with separate arrangements in place for those posted for a greater period. The company signed the Corporate Covenant in March 2015 and has dedicated staff in its call centre to deal with queries from those serving in the Armed Forces.
Three has granted spouses or partners of those assigned overseas for up to 12 months the right to suspend their contracts.
EE is offering a similar deal and has extended the concession to family members accompanying soldiers on overseas postings. The company has pledged to continue to review its offers and has made plans to sign up to the Corporate Covenant.
O2 has promised to develop its own proposals to ensure Armed Forces families are not penalised.
In addition to ensuring that those of you already signed up to contracts are not disadvantaged, the MOD is looking at wider measures to ensure equality if you are posted abroad.
That includes considering ease of access to mortgages, credit and financial services.
Kate added: “Families living overseas, for instance in Germany, can struggle to take out contracts because they have been with a German provider or don’t have a credit rating in this country.
Have you experienced problems suspending a phone contract? Has a network operator been helpful in making allowances during an overseas posting? Share your story with AFF by emailing Kate McCullough