Untangling Vodafone’s iPhone data charges

iPhone3G.jpgAfter we reported that it should be possible to include data usage as part of the overall monthly cap for Vodafone’s iPhone plans, thereby making them much better value, several readers reported that they’d been told just the opposite by Vodafone stores: that the cap explicitly didn’t include any data other than the specific ‘iPhone allowance’. While it’s not surprising that the stores believe that given the way the plans are sold, it isn’t what Vodafone’s terms and conditions actually say. Click after the jump for full analysis.

Here’s the first relevant clause from Vodafone’s standard agreement:

Credit and included Data awarded with the Vodafone Cap Contract Plan
for Apple iPhone 3G can only be used on . . . Mobile Internet as
defined in Part 4, Data Services, of Section 3, Description of Service
Features and Charges (but excluding BlackBerry® services, Premium
Content Services, PXT®, Video PXT® and Vodafone live! surfing, as
defined in Part 7, Value-Added Services, of Section 3, Description of
Service Features and Charges, and Standard Video Calling as defined in
Part 5, Video Calling, of Section 3, Description of Service Features
and Charges – see clause 1.12).

That standard agreement also notes:

Data usage is calculated per KB. Usage over 250MB/ a month is charged
at $0.12 per MB (with a minimum charge per session of 50KB). (The 250MB
is for the $69 plan, but the same definition is used in all the plans
with the appropriate download number).

Turning to the Description of Service Features and Charges,
we find this definition of data services in Section 4:

Access Mobile Internet content (excluding Vodafone live! browsing),
office network and compatible mobile email services using GPRS Services
and/or UMTS Services.

We also find this note:

Unless Your Call or Data Plan states otherwise, You will be charged at
the Pay As You Go rates set out in Section 4 for any Data Services You
use and data You send or receive.

Now, the iPhone plan does state otherwise: it specifies a rate for data
services. So this rate ($0.12 per MB) is available as part of your iPhone cap.
Where confusion potentially arises is because the terms and conditions
do state that Vodafone live! services and premium MMS are excluded from the iPhone. However, Vodafone live! is not general
Internet access — it’s specific Vodafone content service such as
ringtones, games and music downloads. (No carrier is supporting these
for the iPhone, so that’s hardly news.) Nothing in section 1.12 of
Vodafone’s main agreement, which lists iPhone exclusions, says that
generic Internet data can’t be included.
Given that Vodafone has promoted these plans as including specified
data caps, and that store reps are under pressure to sign a long queue
of people up, it isn’t surprising that most believe that the data caps
are calculated differently. But it isn’t what the terms and conditions
say; under those, you’d be perfectly entitled to argue that excess data
charges should be calculated against your cap and not charged
We’re going to seek further clarification from Vodafone today about how
these rules will be applied, but one thing seems clear: if Vodafone
really does intend to make people pay extra cash for any data used on
an iPhone over the specified allowance, it needs to make some major
alterations to its terms and conditions (and those might not be
applicable retrospectively in any case). In the meantime, if you’re
still hunting for an iPhone, it can’t hurt to raise the issue in your
local store.

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