Ofcom will push for greater EU regulation to tackle steep mobile bills, and voluntary application of that regulation outside the EU, but won't force operators to do anything unless they do nothing. In a statement (PDF, long, dull, insufficiently shocking) the regulator reports that data is now the biggest cause of unexpectedly …
All well and good but...
Some form of capping obviously makes sense, but the more fundamental issue is still there - how can using a phone (for voice or data) in a different country cost umpteen times as much as in the home country? If Three can do me 2GB a month for £5, then surely I should be able to use the phone in France or Italy with no more than a small premium over the usual rates to cover the extra costs of involving a second operator. There is no real justification for a charge that is much more than double the normal cost (one payment to the home operator and the same again to the overseas operator - and even that's a bit iffy).
If the powers-that-be really want to make a difference then they should be introducing some form of capping on the actual charges, and not just on the total bill.
A very current problem with me
A couple of days ago I got a letter from O2 saying that one of our phones had reached "the higher usage limit" and previously they would have restricted our service but we can now continue to use it without any disruption.
We have 12 phones on the account, I looked at the online management service and found that one user had clocked up over £1300 data charges in three days.
They have a Blackberry with inclusive data but the charges were for data from o2mobile.co.uk and not through Blackberry. I had a rant about surely it's data and it should be inclusive but they stood their ground.
It seems the use had their Blackberry connected to the PC and on the Blackberry app it offers to connect to the internet and that's what they did. No warnings that we were about to be reamed.
I'm escalating it with the account manager but we are getting nowhere yet.
The bill for that user is around £20 a month, surely it's irresponsible of them to allow this to happen.
Re: A very current problem with me
Irresponsible yes, predictable yes, dodgy dealing yes, to be expected while they chisel you yes. They simply expect you to pay them, it is called sharp practice and your options for redress are few. bombard them with lots of complaints to snow their system and YOU will be on the rack.
You have to decide if the 'dodgy data' package is worth a candle or not. For me the answer is simple, it is not worth the cost and size of some dodgy 'thick phone', a > 6 year old Nokia with data disabled does me just (predictably) fine.
"So one could decide to cap one's own use at, say, £30 a month, and the operator would be required to send at text when one hits 80 per cent of that, and cut off the phone at 100 per cent."
thats interesting but were do they send that text alert too exactly now and in the future for people that dont use their 3G data sim in a mobile phone but rather exclusively in a 3G dongled laptop/pad for data only uses, oops they forgot that VERY common and growing end user usage on purpose it seems.
the app for controlling a dongle usually has some sort of sms function, i know on the one i used to use i could send a receive text messages and would get alerts for 80% of fair use and 100% of fair use as well as other random messages from the telco
An Australian perspective, and possible solution
I am an IT professional. I got burned with excessive data downloads and you could say I should have known better, however even the best of us have troubles keeping up with every change. Two changes got me.
I live and work within a 5 km radius of Melbourne's CBD (Melbourne is our second largest city). I allow data downloads through 3GS and also allow data roaming. When I leave the CBD I turn these off.
However with the advent of iCloud I allowed some backups and made sure they occurred while I was asleep when I was in my house with WiFi running. Unbeknownst to me at the time, the iPhone turns off WiFi when it is in hibernate mode, but it still allows data transfer. You can see the outcome.
Secondly my provider merged with Vodaphone, and it appears to be progressively shutting down the original network. The result was that I got new data roaming charges while living, working and commuting within 5 km of my CBD. Something that never used to happen.
In the first case we get notified by the ISP when our bill is 5 times the average, this is many hundreds of dollars and an outrage. I did go to our Telecommunications Ombudsman over further charges but couldn't negotiate a reasonable cost beyond my first notice of many hundreds of dollars, but at least it wasn't thousands like you sometimes read of.
In the second case I decided I had enough, and now I have a pre-paid sim with another supplier. With this I have total control over what I spend and I do not get a massive cost blowout. The cost and convenience of my pre-paid package is comparable and in the case of data a lot more affordable.
So I suggest everyone look at pre-paid packages as it is the only way to avoid the attrocious highway robbery of the post-paid schemes. I disagree with the proposition that this is an education issue. Post-paid schemes are a license to rip people off, whether they are technically literate or not. Which reminds me I must buy more Telecoms stock.
The networks need to be forced to charge sensibly for data. They wouldn't have needed to go 'all-you-can-eat' it they had. Bill shock is as much because they take the piss with their prices, as because you pay more, the more you use.
For example. My company pay the lovely Vodafone about £200 a month for 6 phones. 3 and a half of those use data, plus 2 dumb-phones. 2 are big data users (our mobile workers' iPhones), the others not. We manage about 1GB a month between us, in a busy month, half a gig more..
So one month their billing computer screwed up. Well actually 3 months, in different ways, but this was the biggie. It decided we didn't have a data package, and so our data went totally pay as you use.
WTF! That's something like £1-£2 per MB! Now if they gave you a small base allowance and then charged £1 per GB, but had a cap for true all-you-can eat data, then there's limited bill shock, but heavier users would pay more (which is fair enough as they cost more in infrastructure). Instead they take the piss, then no-one trusts them, and they have to offer deals that make no economic sense, to make up for it.
Been with them for about five years, I have a monthly credit limit of £100.00, amount spent this month, roaming switched off by default, and your allowances, all info shown on the front page of your account. At the start of the next month all unused allowances roll over - and they just sent me a new HTC Sensation with a £10 a month reduction.
I am most happy Virgin Mobile customer (do they fuck up? yes, of course, but a phone call generally resolves the problem @10p no matter how long the conversation).
I assumed all mobile phone companies operated like this, I find it unbelievable someone could get a £2,500 bill (I'd probably suffer a massive coronary if I got that).