WhoshouldIsee Tracks

Should mobile phone charging be a free public service?


We all like something for free but what public services do we deserve to get for free and what should we pay for?  If you are required to pay to use a toilet or to access WiFi in a public space, it can leave a bad feeling as the expectation is that these services should always be free. But what about public phone charging? Shouldn’t that be a free public service too?

When ChargeBox launched in 2005 the original idea was that people would happily pay less than the price of a cup of coffee to charge their phone.  For the first few years, ChargeBox operated as a pay-to-use service.  It wasn’t until a major mall operator approached us in 2011 asking for a free-to-use service for their shoppers, that everything changed.

When we launched our free-to-use service usage increased by over 2000% overnight.  People love free phone charging!

Now over 95% of our charging locations are free to use.  

But what’s right for your location?  

Free to Use:

  • Increases customer satisfaction and enhances the experience.  Adds to your location’s positive brand identity.
  • Facilitates charging at scale.  More people using the service means that visitors dwell for longer and are likely to be happier and more satisfied by the ease of being able to stay connected.
  • Greater ROI.  100 people using a free service will benefit you exponentially more (additional spending & goodwill) than the revenue 5 people will generate for you by paying for phone charging.  (In our experience Pay to Use phone charge volume is ~ 5% of Free to Use phone charge volume.
  • A service available to all without discrimination.  Yes if people are really in need of a phone charge you could argue that they will pay for it.  But what about the people who can’t afford it or have to prioritise what is most essential at that time?
  • Less staff intervention is required.  A paid service adds an additional layer of complexity to providing a service – more can go wrong.  

Pay to Use:

  • Limits anti-social behaviour.  With payment required and an audit trail back to the user it discourages misuse e.g. kids congregating around a free service.
  • Will generate a small direct revenue stream in certain locations, typically ones where people can’t or won’t leave easily e.g. hospitals, casinos and theme parks.
  • When a location has zero budget it allows them to offer an essential service at little to no cost.

At ChargeBox we offer both Free to Use and Pay to Use services and ultimately the decision on what is best for your location is down to you.  What links our free and pay-for services is that they are both the best charging experiences available.

  • The fastest available phone charging.  Three to four times faster charging than any alternative solutions.
  • Simple and intuitive to use with minimal barriers to get charged up!

When you’re paying for a service these factors become even more critical.

Which service would you lean towards as a business owner? We’d love to hear your views. 

Team Chargebox