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Australian consumer watchdog and data pricing plans

After last week’s (very popular) post here about mobile data pricing plans in Australia, it’s encouraging to read The Sydney Morning Herald reporting that the ACCC – the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission – has been prompted to “investigate whether carriers are misleading consumers into a trap of high excess usage fees” for data plans. We read that the ACCC

issued a stern warning to consumers today, advising them to consider their likely data use – and carriers’ excess fees and charges – before choosing a handset and plan

That’s right – let’s blame the consumers for not being able to translate MBs a month to a mixture of video, audio, and web page downloads.


Chris Althaus, CEO of the mobile industry body, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association, could not say what response the individual carriers would give to the ACCC but pointed to their spending alerts, online bill checking tools and capped plans as ways the carriers were helping consumers avoid excess usage fees.

Geez, one more reason to love industry bodies. Let’s not actually provide the same sort of plans that they have everywhere else in the frigging world (you know, usable amounts of data for reasonable amount of money) – no, let’s help users check how many bytes (or should that be bits?) they have used each time they look at an email (would checking this data be part of the data limit Chris?) so they don’t “get into debt”. Yeah, that’ll do the trick.

Sorry, there’s a good reason why we can’t get what everyone else in the world has

Optus marketing director Michael Smith said he believed the two gigabytes of data usage offered by the $129 timeless plan was enough for most people. “Unlimited data requires a whole lot more extra investment in the network and because it’s very intensive in terms of network usage it’s actually not a very wise business decision,” he said.

Dozens of other telecommunications companies across the globe must be making unwise business decisions then – thank goodness all our telcos are making pretty much exactly the same “wise” business decision.

Hey, ACCC, here’s a thought – ask Telcos to explain why while in Australia we have 4 “competing” 3G networks, we have pretty much the highest data mobile pricing plans in the world. That sounds like a failure of competition to me.

I guess when in Canada tens of thousands of folks sign petitions to seek the lowering of data plans that were already better than anything we have here (from the sole iPhone provider) – resulting in a 70% drop in the announced price, while we queue round the block from midnight for the second highest priced plans in the world, well, maybe that it capitalism in action, You get what you (are prepared to) pay for.

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