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Selecting a Voice/Data Plan

Why should I read this Guide?

The last thing you want when you get your monthly mobile phone/data bill is a surprise - unexpected high bills, especially for data roaming, can be a serious concern. This Guide outlines things you may want to consider when choosing and using your mobile phone. It may help you avoid surprises about your charges. It may even get you a better deal - in that, while we cannot recommend which company you should choose, it gives you information to help you get the right mobile phone/data plan for you.

What should I consider when I take out a Mobile phone/data contract?

Entering into a contract for the provision of mobile calls/SMS or data usage (such as access to the Internet) can be a significant financial commitment. Any such decision should be made with the same care as you would take for any major consumer purchase. It’s always worth bearing in mind that companies compete for your business. Use your buying power wisely and shop around. If you think that a mobile company’s charges are too high, or that their services do not meet your needs, contact other suppliers and try to get a better deal.

 

Customers often take out what is referred to as a ‘Plan’ from a mobile company - which is where the mobile company provides a set amount of call minutes/data usage to a customer for a monthly fee. Key things to consider when taking out a Plan include:

 

  • how much will you use your mobile/Internet (you usually pay a lower monthly charge where you are using lower call minutes/data usage);
  • what time of day will you make most of your calls (suppliers typically have packages whereby you pay more for calling during ‘peak’ times);
  • which mobile network is used by most of the people you are likely to call (often you will pay more to call someone on a different network and you may be able to save money by choosing a tariff where the inclusive call minutes cover all networks, not just your network);
  • if you make a large number of calls to a different supplier, you may benefit from changing to that supplier; and,
  • what kind of services do you want on your mobile (e.g. don’t pay for mobile Internet services if you don’t want to use them).

Is there anything I should consider if I want to use my phone abroad?

Another thing to bear in mind when choosing your mobile Plan, is whether you will be making calls/using data whilst abroad? Calls, text messages, data usage can cost much more if you use your mobile/tablet/dongle abroad.

 

If you regularly travel abroad, you can usually make savings by choosing a monthly (postpaid) contract instead of a prepaid contract. Also, you should consider using text messages which are normally cheaper, instead of voice calls and you could get incoming calls barred (you may need to do this through your mobile phone company before you go abroad) or turn off the data roaming facility of your mobile phone (you can contact your provider to ask how to do this).

 

Finally, what you are charged for and the services available can vary according to the country visited. Details of charges and services are available from mobile phone companies on their websites or speak to their customer service advisers.

Using GPS on your phone while abroad

Using the GPS feature on your phone while abroad to help you navigate to locations in the same way as a car GPS can be costly - and in many cases, may NOT be covered by your Plan. A number of people have used this feature while travelling abroad and received bills in the many hundreds of dollars! Again, it may benefit you to contact your mobile company and ask about how expensive it is to use GPS and how to disable it.

How do I limit the charges for my data usage?

When you use your device to send or receive data (e.g. browse the web), whether it is your mobile, tablet or dongle, there is potential for you to incur large data usage charges unless you are on a Plan which allows you to use a certain amount of data per month (e.g. 500 MB). This is especially so if you are using your device abroad.

 

To help you control how much you spend on your call and data services, either when you are at home or traveling abroad, the mobile companies may be able to set up credit notification points whereby you will be informed of what you’ve spent when you are near to reaching an agreed credit limit. If you would like further information about this or would like to discuss other ways to control your data usage, you should contact your mobile company.

 

Always remember there are alternatives to using your device to send and receive data – such as using local WiFi hotspots (e.g. usually found in coffee shops/hotels) which are normally free or, if not, are charged by the hour.

What should I check when I get my Bill?

It can be worthwhile checking your monthly mobile bills to make sure that your charges are correct and that you are still on the correct telephone/Internet usage plan. Remember, mistakes can be made - and there are many kinds of telephone fraud that can result in incorrect charges on your bill.

 

When reviewing your bill, you may particularly want to:

 

  • check that your telephone number is on the bill (it is worth checking because mistakes can be made and you can be billed for someone else’s calls);
  • if there are calls that none of you recognise, query them with your supplier; and,
  • check that any balance carried forward from the previous month is correct (for example, have all payments that you have made since your last bill been taken into account).

Is my Mobile Plan right for me?

It may also be worth checking what mobile Plan you’re on. Companies change their Plans from time to time, and the one you are on now may not be the best one for you.

 

Check the number of bundled minutes you have per month (i.e. how many minutes you can use without being charged) and the data usage limits that are included in your monthly payments - against what you actually use in the month. (If this information is not shown on your bill, ask your provider for it.)

 

If the number of bundled minutes you’ve used is significantly less than the number included in your Plan, you may be paying higher monthly charges than you need to and you may want to consider moving to a Plan with less bundled minutes, either with your present supplier or someone else. Alternatively, you may be using all of your bundled minutes and also being charged for making additional calls or data. In such cases, you may benefit from moving to a Plan with more bundled minutes.

 

If you are unsure of how to compare monthly bills and available Plans, contact your mobile company and ask them to review your existing usage (over the past 6 months, if possible) and ask them to advise you if you’re on the best Plan for the way in which you use your phone.

 

Remember, however, that your usage may alter from month to month and it may be wise to check several bills before making a decision to move plans/providers.

What do I do if I think there is an error on my Bill?

If you do not understand any aspect of your bill, or if you believe that there has been an error, contact your mobile company. Although a telephone call or visit to their offices may be the best approach initially, if you do not get a satisfactory response, you can put your complaint in writing to them.

 

If that does not work, write to the Authority and submit your complaint - information about which can be found at: How to make a complaint attaching copies of the correspondence you have had about your complaint with your mobile company. The Authority will review your concerns, and the company's response, in light of its policies and regulations to determine if any follow-up action is necessary.