Telstra will this month launch an important upgrade to their mobile data usage alerts, which for the first time will be delivered in real time. This is an excellent development.
Previously alerts would arrive within 48 hours, which is the time-frame stipulated by the TCP (Telecommunication Consumer Protection) Code. This meant in theory that customers could wait two days to discover they’d blown past their data limit, and had started accruing excess data charges at PAYG rates. These astronomical charges would then feature on their next bill, expressed in scientific notation so as not to take up too much space. The resulting coronary is what is known as Bill Shock! (The exclamation point is required by law.)
The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman has revealed that excess data charges are the number one complaint they receive, and the only area to see a significant increase in the last 12 months. Complaints about coverage, international roaming and customer service all fell, while complaints about excess data charges rose by over 27 per cent. Optus last year as much as admitted that telcos have increasingly factored the revenue generated by bill shock (!) into their bottom line.
The key message here is that you never want to exceed your data limit, and finding out in real time where you are in regards to that limit is an essential piece of information. As before, Telstra will send out alerts at 50, 80 and 100 per cent of your monthly allowance. For customers who do go over their limit, an SMS will be sent for every $50 of usage above the cap.
Neither Optus nor Vodafone have announced any plans to introduce real time alerts (they still take up to 48 hours), although they do have other provisions in place. Optus, for example, will automatically add a $10 data bolt-on to your account if you exceed your cap, thus ensuring that you’ll only ever be stung in $10 increments. (I’ve previously explained why it makes financial sense for them to do this.)
As ever, forewarned is forearmed. To ensure Telstra data alerts are switched on, you need to either:
- Log into the Bigpond Mobile site (iPhone instructions), or
- Install the Telstra 24x7 app. Links to the various mobile platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone and Blackberry) are included here.
So go forth, and be forewarned in real time.