Smartphone mobile data usage – consumers warned to check plans for usage caps/excess charges

21 July 2008

The emergence of new smartphone technology, such as the recent release of the Apple iPhone 3G, has led the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to issue a note of warning to consumers.

"As often happens with new technology, consumer protection issues follow," ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, said today.

"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.

"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.
"Earlier this month the ACCC wrote to telecommunication carriers alerting them to concerns about the potential for consumers to be misled about mobile data usage charges.

"We have asked carriers to advise how they intend to deal with this issue and what information they will be providing to consumers.

"There are now a number of 3G handsets available which allow consumers to access internet content, including multimedia. They are able to download high volumes of data quickly.

"Before consumers decide on which handset or plan to buy they should consider their likely data use, seek guidance from the retailer and then choose the most appropriate data plan.

"Most carriers offer services to their customers where they can monitor their data usage or be alerted if they are approaching their plan's limit. This includes internet-based usage checks and SMS messages. Many handsets also include data usage meters. Before entering into a contract consumers should inquire whether their carrier offers this facility.

"Not all carriers offer high volume data plans, so we encourage consumers to compare the offers of each carrier, taking particular note of the excess data usage fees.

"Consumers must think twice before signing contracts with a mobile phone carrier without upfront disclosure of all the fees and charges, including excess data charges.

"If consumers have any concerns about the charges associated with their data use, they should contact their service provider.

"The ACCC will remain vigilant in this new area and where it receives concern over inadequate disclosure of terms and conditions of data use, will act quickly."

More information about mobile phones and consumer rights is available from the ACCC website.


Release number: 
MR 204/08
ACCC Infocentre: 

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