:: ethical phone, networks By Richard Dallaway

Continuing the theme of voting with your wallet, how about switching to an ethical mobile network? Ecotalk, a UK mobile (cell) network, achieved the highest score in the Nov/Dec 2019 Ethical Consumer ratings.

“A mobile phone service with a green outcome”

The parent company is Ecotricity, a green energy provider which has been supplying UK homes for 16 years. The phone network uses the money we spend with them to give land back to nature, improving biodiversity. With an energy provider as a parent, you’d expect they’d allocate green energy to cover the network use, and they do.

Ethical Consumer magazine rated all the networks in the UK, and Ecotalk came top by some distance. Those ratings are based on a wide range of factors (human rights, marketing, military support, political activity, tax avoidance, company ethos…) as well as green credentials.

Coverage and plans

As a virtual mobile operator, Ecotalk uses EE infrastructure. After you switch you’ll see EE as your network. (EE by themselves were a respectable 5th in the table; Ecotalk do better because of the good/non-evil things they do with the revenue).

The plans include 2G, 3G and 4G. There’s no mention of 5G, but that’s not a concern for me. Maybe I’ll be interested in a few years.

I’ve not tried international roaming, but it’s the roam like at home-style for travelling in the EU.

Ecotalk offer 12 month contracts and 30 day contracts. I went for the 12 months, 10G data, unlimited calls and texts. It’s £12/mo including VAT (at the time of writing, November 2019).


Signing up is reasonably standard:

  • adding a plan to your basket and checking out;
  • providing contact and bank account direct debit details;
  • entering (and verifying) your email address; and
  • setting a user name and password.

You also get to set a “credit limit”, which is a kind of data overdraft. If you hit your data limit, but don’t want Ecotalk to stop your usage, you can say you’re willing to go over by up (for example) £30. You can set this to zero.

I did the sign up on Sunday night, and I received a new SIM in the post on Wednesday morning:

Keep your number

Keeping your existing phone number is so much easier than the last time I switched networks. With your existing SIM (for me, this was with Three), you text PAC to 75075, and you get back a code (a PAC) that’s valid for 30 days. I also received a confirmation from Three that “If [I] use [the PAC] today, [my] final bill will be 0 GBP”.

Once my Ecotalk SIM had arrived, I logged into my Ecotalk account and entered the PAC. It takes up to a couple of days to switch your number over. You’re told to wait until you lose service from your existing network, then put in the new SIM and reboot.

I did that, but my phone (and iPhone SE) was reporting a new phone number. I was expecting to see my old (existing) number. Porting isn’t instant, and it looks like it flips over at 6pm each evening.

At 6pm, I rebooted, and indeed my phone was showing my old number. (On Apple devices you can view your number by Settings > Phone)

I checked a few web sites, made some calls, sent some text. The main thing I wanted to check was: did data tethering work? Yes, and it was fast.

Support: email slow; phone great

I did email Ecotalk, and the automated response is that they’ll get back in five working days. In reality, I had a response in one or two days. However, the telephone support is great.

I phoned Ecotalk support once, expected to be in a queue for a while, but was speaking to a human pretty much instantly. They understood exactly what I burbled at them, and had the answer. Knowledgeable and fast.

Account access and billing

Finally, online you can view your account. It looks like this:

You’re billed in advance for the month, and the bill includes a VAT line, in case you need to expense that. If you’re setting up your bill against a business, or need to change your direct debit, call them.


Ecotalk is the most ethical phone network in the UK. It works. It’s easy to switch. You should consider it.