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.

No responses to “Australian consumer watchdog and data pricing plans”:

  1. John: came across a quote the other day that made me think of our horrible data plans – from Richard Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class (paraphrasing Joel Mokyr):

    Technical creativity has tended to rise and then fade dramatically at various times in various cultures when social and economic institutions turn rigid and act against it.

    • By: john
    • July 21st, 2008


    Good point. Florida’s thesis has big implications here in Australia. The single best bang for buck any local, state or federal government could make, imho, is provide free wifi across broad swathes of the urban landscape. To me its the water and sewerage service of the 21st century.

  2. Dont get me started on this – the whole Australian telecommunications system is BROKEN and if anyone thinks we’ll ever have ‘world-standard’ broadband with the current players and regulations, they’re dreaming. Its time the whole industry was de-regulated, Telstra put in its place and the big boys from the US (and I dont mean Sol Trujillo) invited in to give the locals a rocket – it worked a treat in the UK.

  3. Yeah I cheered when I read the headline about the ACCC investigation but then nearly choked on my breakfast when they were giving US the warning, not the telcos.

    Still am holding out against the iphone until Virgin or 3 or someone get it and give us a decent data plan. I’m with Virgin at the moment and I only pay $5 a month for data – I’d check how much I get but their website is rubbish and I can’t find it. But I never go over my data limit and I use a lot of data.

    I think I’ll get an old unlocked one from the States and use it on my current Virgin plan.

    • By: Gavin
    • July 21st, 2008

    You might be interested to know:

    A co-worker overheard a salesperson in a Telstra store explain to a customer that 20Mb was “more than enough” for web surfing on their iPhone.

    Is this kind of ‘advice’ common at point of sale? Scary.

  4. Hey just read in the SMH that Virgin are going to also sell the Iphone and on a much better plan.

    Meanwhile Virgin is expected to offer the 8GB iPhone 3G for $0 upfront on a $70 per month contract with 1GB of data – a generous data allowance for the price when compared to the competition. For a few extra dollars customers can add up to an extra 4GB of data – which is a very tempting offer.

    More at the SMH

    • By: john
    • July 31st, 2008

    Thanks Cheryl,

    that’s getting more realistic.

    Glad I’m not on a 24 month contract with some of the plans originally on offer.


  5. Yeah same – although I only held out because of your previous blog post, I originally thought “sod it, we always get ripped off here, oh well what can I do?”.

    So you’ve just saved me a crappy 24 month contract on Voda!

    • By: john
    • August 1st, 2008

    Web Directions, saving consumers from themselves, one person at a time :-)