It isn’t just single consumers with post-paid plans that suffer Bill Shock. It’s also businesses.
New research has just been released by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) demonstrating that 34 per cent of post-paid phone users in Australia have suffered ‘Bill Shock’ recently, and that the average additional charge was $169. Of these, 320 of 2286 surveyed users admitted that they had trouble paying the additional charge.
These are troubling figures, and reaffirm why the newly introduced Telecommunications Consumer Protection (TCP) code has been put in place, and why the federal government has only this week expanded the ACMA’s powers of enforcement.
Here at Dog and Bone we predominantly deal with ‘business’ customers, rather than single users, although ‘business’ in this sense includes a vast range of charities and non-profit entities in addition to more traditional corporate customers. Our experience demonstrates that it isn’t only single users that experience Bill Shock. Businesses both large and small are frequently slugged with huge extra charges, for a number of reasons.
We find that these additional charges are invariably the result of several possible factors:
1. Incorrect rates.
This is fairly self-explanatory, but it basically means that you are not enjoying the correct rates as laid out in your contract. This problem generally occurs at the beginning of a contract, and is the result of an improper implementation on the part of your provider. It therefore follows that the most important time to check your rates is immediately after a new contract is entered into. (Bear in mind that it generally takes a week or two after the contract is signed for new rates to come into effect.)
Having said that, it will occasionally happen that the rates go haywire during the course of your contract. While we’d like to believe that this is an honest mistake on the part of your provider, it’s interesting that the error mostly works out in their favour. Sometimes a provider will simply alter your existing contract to suit their needs, and point to fine print provisions that enable them to do so. We’ve seen this happen, which rather called into question the use of having a contract in the first place.
Dog and Bone has found that billing errors of this type generated overcharges of approximately $173,000 in the last twelve months for our clients (we also recouped this money on their behalf). However, it should be borne in mind that our data comes from a very wide range of business types and sizes, and therefore cannot usefully be compared to the figures for single users.
2. Incorrect Plans.
As with incorrect rates, a provider will often implement the wrong plan types with the new contract. This will usually produce far more serious cost spikes than incorrect rates, yet is in fact a far easier mistake to make. Making sure your business is on the correct plans is therefore of vital importance. You should also select plans with some flexibility, because staff usage patterns will change over time.
These changing patterns are a primary cause of mid-contract blow-outs. Constant vigilance is therefore important in order to catch changes as they occur, and to perhaps adjust plans accordingly.
3. Incompatible Plans.
The average user may not know this, but often it is the case that two plans from a single provider are incompatible with each other. It is understandable that users don’t know this, since often the provider is unaware as well. Sometimes the customer will request a plan change, and the provider will implement it in good faith, which will cause all kinds of things to go wrong, most of which end up costing a lot of money.
For example, one of our clients requested that a number of their mobile data plans be changed to a shared data plan. The provider fulfilled this request, but hadn’t realised that shared data plans cannot exist on the same account as unshared mobile plans. This resulted in none of the plans working, and all mobile data being charged at PAYG (Pay As You Go) rates. The result was a $23,000 mobile bill, which was rather higher than the $1,500 they were used to paying each month.
4. User Error.
Now unfortunately, the fact is that most instances of bill shock are due to misuse by the customer. Some of these might be honest mistakes, and some may well be due to being misled by providers, such that users were not fully aware of what they were entering into. But here at Dog and Bone we see a huge array of cases that could have been prevented, such as enormous international roaming data charges, or domestic data, or users accessing services that could have no possible legitimate business use.
It is very important that you staff members are aware of exactly what constitutes legitimate usage, and that they are aware of the potential pitfalls of misuse. Here at Dog and Bone we have found that a prominently available Calls Policy can prove useful in alerting staff to permissible phone usage.
Dog and Bone also provides further means of addressing these issues. These include our SMS Reporting service, which alerts users of their monthly spend, and has proved highly effective by empowering staff members to police their own usage. Dog and Bone also offers a fully Independent Telecommunications Support Service, which among other things virtually negates many of the problems mentioned here, by having us constantly monitoring your telecommunications activity, and always looking for ways to reduce costs and increase efficiency. Feel free to contact us about any of this information, and for ways to ensure your business doesn’t suffer Bill Shock in the future.