We've often suspected people spend more money than they should on mobile services, and now there's some solid proof. New research suggests that 68 per cent of Australians don't believe they get full value from their contract plans. Despite that, 45 per cent have experienced 'bill shock', where their monthly bill is much higher than expected.
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The 'State Of The Mobile Nation' study of 1600 consumers was carried out by Macquarie University (and sponsored by mobile provider Amaysim). We reported on some of the initial findings of the study last year, but the final report provides some additional insights into how we spend our money on phone services.
While we often associate bill shock with going overseas, that wasn't the primary cause identified in the study. Domestic voice calls were the top reason (cited by 54 per cent of those studied), followed by data costs (20 per cent), SMS charges (18 per cent), international calls (13 per cent) and roaming charges (11 per cent).
Despite extremely high rates of mobile ownership, Australian consumers rank available services poorly compared to countries in the European Union:
Consumers in Australia find it harder to compare mobile carrier offers; they have little trust in the industry to respect their rights as a consumer; they experience more problems and complain more than their European counterparts; they find it harder to switch suppliers; mobile carriers don’t live up to consumer expectations and finally consumers don’t think that the mobile carriers behave ethically.
Macquarie's Dr David Gray plans to continue the research, including more detailed analysis of why many consumers resist changing even when they feel their plans are bad value. One factor which emerged in focus groups during the research was a widespread belief that all carriers are equally lousy and deceptive, as well as a high level of confusion over what plans included.
Forthcoming changes to how phone plans are marketed, including a ban on the use of the entirely deceptive word 'cap', should make it easier to determine if you're wasting money. In the meantime, the best approach remains to carefully analyse any plans you're offered, and work out whether all that confusing '$500 worth of calls' messaging actually meets your needs.