ACCC warns 'iPhoners' on bill shock

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Joe capitalises on a life-long love of blinking lights and upbeat MIDI soundtracks covering the latest developments in smartphones and tablet computers. When not ruining his eyesight staring at small screens, Joe ruins his eyesight playing video games and watching movies. Twitter: @Joseph_Hanlon

Australia's competition watchdog has warned consumers to carefully consider their data allowances when using 3G mobile devices to avoid exorbitant excessive data charges, known in the industry as "bill shock".

The rise in popularity of 3G devices in Australia, and particularly with the release of Apple's iPhone 3G earlier this month, is expected to lead to a dramatic increase in the amount of data accessed through smartphones.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) today warned that while data allowances might have increased, consumers might not be fully aware of the consequences of over-spending.

"The ACCC is particularly concerned that consumers may be misled if they are not made sufficiently aware that their data allocations can be exceeded — at significant cost" says ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel.

"In the case of smartphones, consumers can download greater amounts of information from the internet than ever before. With this, comes the potential for them to exceed their phone plan value and incur considerable additional charges."

An example of this additional usage charge is found in Telstra's iPhone 3G information pamphlet. Telstra iPhone pricing suggests customers sign up to an AU$29 browsing pack which includes 80MB of included downloads. Every megabyte of data used each month in excess of this allocation will cost an additional AU$1.

The watchdog encouraged consumers who are new to accessing the internet via their mobile phones to make use of data usage meters provided by some of the carriers, or by accessing similar information on the handset itself. The iPhone 3G is an example of a recent release smartphone that tallies the owner's recent data usage.

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Dave posted a comment   

My partner and I have about 28k worth of bill for one iPhone.. with what I would assume is not so much usage, considering other people are using them far more frequently than us.. What up with that?

 

spd1275 posted a comment   

I just dumped Telstra for Optus & IPhone. Telstra hit me with $2000 excess data fee on mobile inet plan. Ombudsman was VERY helpful. Since Telstra did not see fit to allow me to monitor usage, they had to give me a FULL CREDIT. Thank you Ombudsman.

 

Jon Biddell posted a comment   

I agree with joey joe - if people are too "think" to check their data usage, maybe they shouldn't have an iPhone...

Having said that, I don't want the hassle of having to check my data usage. As I have said b3efore, until we get unlimited data plans, the iPhone will be an expensive toy.

As for the unlimited plans "with an asterisk", the ACCC has warned Telcos that if you advertise UNLIMITED, then UNLIMITED you shall provide. Anything else is unacceptable.

For the uninitiated, UNLIMITED means "without let or hinderance".

 

hatestelstra posted a comment   

joey_jojo

with the optus 79 cap. you get 250mb data with 500 bucks of calls.

with telstra to get that same value u have to spend 700 bucks per month (as they dont offer caps on their iphone packs)

so i think instead of abusing all telco's, we abuse just one... telstra.

i cannot believe there are people out their who are still thick enough to buy from telstra.

telstra is the joke people, not the iphone (btw i dont like the iphone - i prefer the LG Viewty)

 

asasso posted a comment   

I agree with the comments about not enough usage required to do any decent browsing or anything else for that matter on this gadget. Which kind of defeats the purpose of buying a super expensive phone and then not being able to afford to use its full potential! I've got a next g phone with telstra which has a web browsing feature on it, but the cost of doing any decent amount is pathetic. I do most of my browsing at home on the computer anyway, so I advise anyone who has these things to download stuff for it on the computer and then transfer it to the phone.

 

Joey Jojo posted a comment   
Costa Rica

I completely agree with the last two comments. Telco's should have to provide a site/call center where we can access our usage information, just like a ISP. As for the data, most phones (including the iPhone-under general settings) has a usage counter, simply reset this every month on the day your new pay period starts.

 

Jai posted a comment   

I'm new to this 'data' thing having bought an iPhone. What I'd really like to quantify is exactly how much data do I use doing stuff like checking emails, websites etc. I know its a bit like how long is a piece of string but it would be a great CNET article if someone would give us a bit of an idea how much data various functions use on a 3G network, might help to save us from these 'excess' data ripoffs.

 

Obvioso posted a comment   

I've looked into mobile data with Optus a number of times. The plans are rubbish but the main issue for me is that they provide no way for you to monitor your usage! How they are allowed to get away with this leaves me gobsmacked. Don't know if other mobile providers are the same.

 

Never_Buying_an_iPhone posted a comment   

In the U.S. data is basically free (most internet and phone plans are unlimited -- that is, *really* unlimited, not the "unlimited" with a bit fat asterisk you get here). That's why devices like the iPhone are so popular over there, and why they're so dumb over here.

 

Ernie posted a comment   

Once again, Australia lives up to its reputation as the country where price gouging is a way of life!


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