Five Ways Mobile Phone Plans Can Screw You Over

The Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code means that phone companies have to be relatively honest about what a given mobile service costs you, but that doesn't mean they won't try and wring money out of you in other ways. Here are five examples of how phone companies can be sneaky with their charges.

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Sneaky layering of conditions

We noted last week that ALDI Mobile has removed its "unlimited" plan, shifting to a fixed number of minutes, having already halved the data allowance on that plan. Gizmodo reader spotty82 points out that ALDI Mobile has another nasty trick up its sleeve: if you're on the $35 plan, you can't purchase an additional data pack, since both plans are considered "bolt-ons" and you can only have one at a time. Sneaky. The one upside? It's a prepaid plan, so switching is easy.

Voicemail charges

Whether or not you pay to access voicemail depends entirely on your carrier. If you're on an "unlimited" plan, voicemail shouldn't be charged, but for anyone else, it's worth bearing in mind. If you receive a lot of messages, then a no-charge plan can make a big difference.

Touting benefits of per-minute charges

Back in June, Optus made a big deal of how it had switched to describing plans in terms of included minutes rather than quoting a dollar value. What it didn't point out is that when it made the switch, it actually slightly decreased the number of calls you could make for the same money. We agree quoting an included number of minutes can be easier to follow (that's why the TCP Code requires all carriers to quote the number of 2-minute calls that could be made on a given plan), but don't let that fool you into thinking it's automatically better value. It may not be.

Tricky ways of charging data

Under the TCP code, carriers have to quote an effective per-MB price, but they don't have to charge that way. Some plans count data per KB, some per 10KB, and some per MB. The bigger the unit, the less value you get, since every individual connection will be charged at the minimum amount.

Global roaming rorts

Global roaming remains by far the biggest rip-off, as Adelaide's Mayor recently learned to his cost. We've seen new roaming plans from Vodafone, Optus and Telstra this year, but roaming still remains massively expensive, and you're almost always better off grabbing a local SIM. Our guide to how to avoid roaming rorts has more specific tips.

What phone company practices get on your goat? Share your horror stories in the comments.


    does Optus still has that nice 1mb flagfall cost for any mobile CDMA/UMTS/LTE data ?
    as in, check your email, use 9kb, and it's 1mb of usage ? check it again 30 minutes later, 2mb usage/hour ?

    So, checking your email every 30 minutes, would use 48mb/day, 1.4 Gb/month, an extra
    but only 13mb of usage ?

    i can see why PAYG Sim only plans are being phased out, the profit made by bundled and prepaid plans are within the definition of extortion and theft.

      Data on Optus plans is charged per kilobyte,

    There is another gotcha that people probably do not know about... I once got a phone bill with all these 10c charges on there.. There wre quite a lot too... I rang up and complained about it.. they went away and investigated it... Found out that a SMS app turned on "Recieve return receipt for SMS" on. So every time I sent an SMS, although it was free, I was being charged 10c each time for the phone tower to provide a tick on my screen which said the person had gotten the SMS.

    The data usage meter is 6 - 36 hours delayed. No opntion to turn of data once 100% is reached, so you can never get to 100% (unless you fluke it). If you go over you get charged a fortune. Mean.

    TCP should mandate 24h aggregates on all bytes, with a rounding up to 1MB. Daily.

    Something people probably don't realize is that the new optus plans are charged per second - not per minute.

      That's a good thing.. you actually pay for what you get.. per min or 30sec billing you make a phone call for 31 secs you pay for a full 60 secs.

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