While iPhones and smart phones enjoy market success, people are increasingly complaining about shock-inducing bills from their telecommunications company, according to Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Deirdre O’Donnell.
“Bill-shock” occurs when people receive internet or telephone bills that are far higher than expected. O’Donnell is urging consumers to do their homework before signing up to “smart” phone contracts.
“Bills can amount to thousands of dollars and some people have told us they have taken out personal loans to pay the debt,” she says.
However, O’Donnell says providers have an obligation under the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code to monitor customers’ usage and notify them if any unusual or excessive patterns are discovered.
“Service providers offer a wide range of different and sometimes quite complex plans for smart phones, which can make it hard for consumers to choose the right product,” she says.
According to O’Donnell, providers must give customers clear and accurate information, and consumers should consider the following before signing a smart-phone contract.
- Think about how you will use the internet, e.g. if the plan will be just for checking emails or for downloading movies and music, which accounts for a lot more data.
- Ask the service provider how much data different activities might consume.
- Determine the total cost of a plan – cheaper plans may have high excess data charges.
- Ask how the plan works. Will you pay excess charges if you exceed your data limit?
- Ask how they can track your usage.
- Ask if they can adjust or change your plan if you use more data than expected.
Remember that even if the plan is for a child or someone else, you will still be responsible for all bills in your name.