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 separately.
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.


Comments

    The problem is that when I visited the store on Saturday, the assistant was able to show me a document on their web site that explicity states that data over your allowance cannot be paid for out of your included cap credits.

    Which pretty much killed the sale for me. Otherwise, I'd be a proud owner right now.

    Be interesting to see if Vodafone also back this up with a link on their site when they get back to me. Everything I've seen in their T&Cs blocks Vodafone live!, but not data as such. (But it might be buried in yet another T&C document, of course.)

    Where has the $29 jumbo cap plan gone? Has there been any explanation for this?

    I had it explained to me in store that data over the 500mb allowance comes out of your unused cap on the personal plans but on the business plans it is billed separately and does not eat away at your unused call/txt cap.

    This situation is a joke. I don't even think Vodafone know what their terms and conditions are, obviously their stores have no clue. What Adrian was told above is in complete contrast to what I got told @ Vodafone on Saturday.

    If you can use your unused call credits to pay excess data charges I'll be at the nearest Vodafone store in the next 10 minutes to sign up. Otherwise I'll probably end up at Optus once they get stock.

    Any update from Vodafone head office Angus?

    Vodadone have promised to "get back to me shortly". Not exactly holding my breath.

    I wasn't going to purchase an iPhone on Friday, but visited a Vodafone store (Highpoint, Vic) anyway just to have a look...

    As an existing Vodafone customer, I was having a friendly chat and clarifying the cost of the iPhone's excess data rate (as I had believed it was 2 cents per Kb). I was pleasantly suprised to be told that it was 12 cents per Mb AND that any excess data charge is offset as part of the monthly Cap credit.

    I was initially skeptical, and asked the sales person why this vital piece of information hadn't been communicated more clearly by the Vodafone Marketing team and was told that it was probably because everything had been so rushed and that everything was in a shambles.

    On the basis of what was communicated to me about the excess data pricing, I signed-up to the $69 iPhone plan on the spot. I'm certainly not going to be happy if this isn't the case...

    Vodafone's agreement is just a contradiction in itself, and it's starting to annoy the hell out of me.

    Let us know what they tell ya's when and if they do get back to you :)

    They did get back to me -- you can read the response at http://www.lifehacker.com.au/tips/2008/07/15/vodafone_iphone_plans_data_not_included_in_caps_but_noones_sure_why_not.html -- but it wasn't terribly helpful.

    Here's an email I received from Voda about this:
    (BTW the link they supply tells you nothing)
    I wonder if they have to stick to what they have stated no I have it in writing from Voda?

    Thank you for your email.

    If you join Vodafone on an iPhone contract as a personal customer, the $310 credit can be used for calls, TXT and data.

    If you join as a Business Customer a limited amount of the $310 credit can be used for data.

    For further information please refer to the link below

    http://store.vodafone.com.au/iphone

    Kind regards

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