60 Aussies Complained To The TIO About $10,000+ Excess Data Bills

60 Aussies Complained To The TIO About $10,000+ Excess Data Bills

The good news? Overall complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) have fallen over the past year. The bad news? Too many people are still being shafted for excess data charges.

Complaints picture from Shutterstock

The TIO’s annual report shows that it received 138,946 complaints in 2013-2014, a 12.4 per cent drop on the previous year and the lowest total in six years.

The biggest source of pain continues to be excess data charges. There were 14,534 complaints about data charges, up 27.2 per cent from the previous year. And the dollar totals involved are high: half involved sums bigger than $440, and more than 60 people complained about data bills of $10,000 or more.

A key lesson from this? Make sure your plan has adequate data for your needs. Mobile providers have on the whole become stingier with data allocations in recent years — if you’re regularly paying an excess fee, then it’s time to start looking around. If you switch to the right prepaid plan, you can avoid bill shock and often receive a higher data allocation than on a contract.

MORE:Which Phone Companies And ISPs Had The Most Complaints?

One common cause of data bills being high is overseas travel, though the TIO said roaming-specific complaints were down 35 per cent. While we have recommendations for the best roaming deals from each Australian carrier, we still advocate using an overseas SIM whenever possible. It’s hard to experience bill shock on a prepaid SIM.

Mobile reception appears to be improving, with complaints about coverage down 54.6 per cent and complaints about mobile service faults down as well. Good to see all that network investment is having an effect.

Inevitably, the big three mobile companies dominate the statistics: Telstra, Vodafone and Optus account for 77.7 per cent of all complaints. We’ll drill into the numbers in a future article to see which carriers are experiencing problems and where the pain points are.


  • I get that excess data charges are a joke, but they’re written in plain English.
    “If you go over the limit we’ve set, you will get charged X amount per nominated unit of data.”
    It’s nobodies fault but your own if you’re going SO far over your data allowance that you’re getting a $10,000+ fine!

    • In my/their defence, it’s usually impossible to have an accurate/current figure as to how much you have remaining. Their systems usually takes hours to update that information, in which time it’s ridiculously easy to go over by 50mb, which they then ream you for.

      • Yeah, no doubt that the ones who are getting slugged $400 for a handfull of MB’s have a legitimate gripe (I’m assuming you fit this category), but the 60 people who got a $10,000+ bill? They didn’t go over by a small amount. Vodafone charges $10 for 1GB. Telstra is $0.03 per MB.

        If they’re with either of those companies, they’ve gone over by approx. 1TB or 333GB respectively. In a month.

          • I am too — hard to tell as the categories of “roaming” and “excess data” are categorised separately but clearly overlap!

          • Yeah, hadn’t thought of that! That would make it 3GB over the cap. Which is still fairly excessive but not so outrageous that you couldn’t conceivably miss it.

          • Someone on an Internet forum who’s willing to take further information into account and adapt their view, rather than just digging in and continuing to argue? Kudos!

        • I know a person who went overseas and used his phone GPS for the duration of his bike ride (cyclist) and his fine was around that $10k mark. It was of course %100 his mistake, but it is an example of just how easy it is for someone not in the know to accidentally go over. Im wondering if the majority of people complaining about that were in a similar situation, rather than say downloading a TB of movies as an example.

      • I use android and love the built in data usage tracker.

        You can set your own warning limit as well as a maximum. Since your phone is calculating the data traffic it is calculated in real time and will turn off mobile data at your set threshold. If set correctly it’s impossible to go over your data.

        This app is also good at identifying which apps are using the most data, to help you decided whether you keep it installed or not or limit it from using background data.

        For the Apple crowd a quick search found an app called “Data Usage”. It doesn’t appear to stop mobile data since it’s a third party app but like the built in tool for android it does offer real time monitoring.

        I know you mentioned that it’s “usually” impossible but the cautious and data heavy users out there should know about apps like this

    • Fortunately it doesn’t work quite this way – you can’t override consumer law by putting terms in the contract.

    • Data roaming seems to be the major culprit here as well as people who don’t know enough about capping their usage when overseas.

      A side note for some, i’m pretty sure most android phones have a data usage tracker built in which allows you to set warning and limit values. Hit the first one and your phone warns of your usage hitting that mark, the other turns off mobile data altogether.

      I assume there is an iPhone equivalent (hopefully)

    • “I get that excess data charges are a joke, but they’re written in plain English.”

      Mine were not spelled out in any of the documentation i received from my telco (this was back at the dawn of excess usage charges for internet access) and the ombudsman forced telstra to remove the charges from my bill. Thats a difference of 6000 dollars for reference.

      • Yeah, but that’s apple and oranges, wouldn’t you think? It’s clearly spelt out today. Telstra has it written under each plan.

  • Well, if they didn’t offer people 100mb data limits on post-paid plans, the world would be a better place.

    I’m glad I switched to Amaysim. With Optus, I’d pay $19 for 100mb of data, and some calls / text on top of that. I paid an extra $10 to get 1gb of data. Now I pay $10 for the 1gb of data (which is actually 2gb. They made a mistake and told me not to worry about it — it was their accidental way of saying “Welcome aboard!”) and pay only for the calls and texts I use. So far, it’s been $4 in a month and a half.

  • Maybe they need to start being fair about the amount of data they allocate people. In today’s connected world it really doesn’t take too much to use up data. It also doesn’t cost them nearly as much as they charge even for a 1-2GB data allowance for everyone. A “Convenience” charge for going over your data allowance is and always has been an unfair joke on consumers.

  • I think data allowance has been better the last year or so, abit different from the topic however there is now data sharing sims (so you don’t need multiple accounts) and the data has been increased in contracts, i get 5gigs on my plan paying only slightly more than a few years ago when i only had 1.

  • I used Skype for the first time this year last week. The call was 16 minutes and it used 890 meg. Ran my allowance out and cost excess fees. When I googled it Skype Microsoft have done something recently to cause this. Many people have been caught out. Looking at Viber perhaps.

  • As of 4th of March when Telstra introduced their new Mobile Accelerate Plans they also introduced a call and data cap “Safety Net”

    This data cap is set to $500 (excludes roaming) It should also be mentioned that Telstra has also started sending customers messages at 50, 80 & 100% of their usage. This admittedly can be a little delayed.

    So $500 is still quite high however it does beat paying $10,000

    • It’s still a case of them knowing it’s shit and deliberately exploiting it.

      When iinet can monitor 200gb of traffic and shape my traffic within minutes of me hitting the total there is something wrong with the mobile telcos that they take 24 hours to update your usage.

      The ACCC could end this immediately by requiring the telco to provide a service that cuts off your data once you go through your included data unless you opt in for the remainder of the month. Some sort of SMS opt-in would work just fine.

      The telcos would never let this happen

    • any provider is required now to send alerts at 100% usage. it’s a license condition and also gives them a leg to strand on if a customer goes to the TIO

  • We had this problem with some customers computers having malware on them and they leave their usb dongle connected all the time. Most of these bill are being cause by the users own ignorance and inexperience with technology

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