Ask LH: Why Do Mobile Data Packs Have An Expiry Date?

Dear LH, Why is it that mobile data packs (for mobile phone plans or use with tablets) have an expiry date? Data allowance won’t spoil in the fridge, so what gives? Some plans let you roll data from month to month, but the long-life ones don’t. Is this fair? Is it legal? Thanks, Data Deviate

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Dear DD,

At the end of the day, telcos are businesses that want to make as much money as possible. Limiting data packs to a set time period or billing cycle keeps the customer from stockpiling their unused data. Whether this is fair is debatable, but it’s certainly not illegal.

Companies can sell plans on whatever basis they like, provided they make those terms and conditions clear from the outset. This is covered under Part 23 of the Australian Telecommunications Act:

Content service providers that use a standard form of agreement (SFOA) are required to provide customers with concise summaries of the terms and conditions set out in the SFOA applying to their service. The summary must not exceed four pages in length. Customers must be given reasonable notice of adverse changes of the terms and conditions.

If you don’t like the terms of the plan, your only option is to seek a different carrier. With that said, data pack expiration dates are pretty uniform across the industry, so don’t get your hopes up. Your best bet is to switch to a plan with a decent built-in data allowance — head to our Planhacker section for an overview of different mobile contracts in Australia.

Alternatively, when it comes time to renew your contract, you can sometimes get your telecommunication provider to bolster your data allowance as an incentive to stick around. If you don’t require a new handset but want to stay on the same plan, ask if a data increase is possible. Telcos are extremely keen to retain customers, so it can’t hurt to ask.

You can find plenty of other data-boosting tips via our guide to stretching a meagre data allowance.


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