Data Downloads

Reporter: James Thomas.

It's called data bill shock and sometimes it just doesn't compute.

Pensioner Jane Vidler's Vodafone bill is normally $59 but a simple mistake has cost her dearly. "I assumed I was using the computer's dongle for the internet usage not my WiFi", Jane said.

Jane was actually downloading from her phone WiFi and exceeded her data limit -- Vodafone made a killing. "They should have a text that gets sent to you at a certain point that warns you that you are reaching your limit", Jane said.

They didn't and the bill hit $1,700 before Vodafone warned Jane.

"It is not in our interests to have customers that are unhappy with the size of their phone bill", said Vodafone's Greg Spears.

Greg concedes there is a better way to do business and says his company is working on implementing a fairer billing system. "We are actually in the process or rolling out, on a trial basis, an alert service which would indicate to customers when they are at 50/85 or 100% of the cap of their plan", he added.

"Data usage is a really big issue at the moment, complaints about excess data charges have tripled in the past year", said The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network's, Elise Davidson.

"It's happening worldwide with smartphones, about half of us now have a smartphone and with 4G Network starting to come into play in Australia, people are using a lot more data for doing things like streaming videos or music", Elise said.

There are 16.2 million mobile subscribers in Australia and download rates are up 32% -- thousands are left reeling from data bill shock.

"With smartphones, people can download a lot of data very, very quickly so it is really easy for you to get yourself in trouble", said Phone Choice's Doug Purdie.

Doug has crunched the numbers and says Amaysim's unlimited plan is one of the better plans on the market. "A month the plan provides 4 gig of data and free social networking using the Optus Network", he said.

But Doug cautions that there is no 'one size fits all'. "Well there is no cheapest plan, it depends on what it is you're looking for", he said.

Victims of data bill shock are looking for protection from the telcos and finally it's coming. From September next year, the major providers will be required to send you a text message when you've used 50, 85 percent and a hundred per cent of your included data.

It's a little too late for some customers, but luckily for Jane, Vodafone have responded to our story with an olive branch. "I think in this instance there has been a large bill that should have been caught earlier. We will do everything in our power to waive that bill and absolve it. It is something that i am sure we will come to an amicable agreement with the customer", Greg said.

For further information:

www.phonechoice.com.au