Sainsbury’s to axe mobile phone service after Vodafone talks break down

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Supermarket Sainsbury’s is axing its mobile phone service after talks broke down with its network supplier Vodafone in a move affecting around 150,000 customers, many from Sussex.

The chain said its Mobile by Sainsbury’s service will end on January 15 just two and a half years after it set up the joint venture with Vodafone.

Most of the customers affected are on Sim-only pay-as-you-go deals and Sainsbury’s said they will not be able to top up credit after November 14.

It is advising them to use credit by January 15, although it is understood customers will still be able to reclaim any outstanding credit after that time.

Sainsbury’s apologised to customers on a message on its website, saying it wanted to make the process of changing mobile provider as “straightforward as possible”.

The group added in a statement: “Our priority now is to help our customers and make sure they are inconvenienced as little as possible.”

Its 38-strong network of in-store phone shops selling mobile phones and accessories will remain unaffected and it will continue selling handsets in more than 300 stores.

It is understood Sainsbury’s and Vodafone pulled the plug on the joint venture after disagreeing over the future of the service.

Recent speculation suggests Vodafone is planning to quit the white label network market - or so-called mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) market.

Mobile phone group TalkTalk reportedly claimed that Vodafone was withdrawing entirely from the MVNO market in documents filed with the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in July over the forthcoming mega-merger between BT and EE.

The closure of Mobile by Sainsbury’s marks the second time the group has pulled out of offering a mobile phone service, having previously launched Sainsbury’s One in 2001.

This was rebranded before ending in 2003.

It is understood Sainsbury’s hopes to return to the mobile phone market after its Vodafone joint venture ends.

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