Australia’s ‘sneaky’ mobile rip-off
A Sydney woman who claimed she was ripped off by $160 by her mobile phone provider has slammed a "sneaky" widespread tactic used by Aussie telcos.
Samantha Shoaib, from Sydney's west, had signed up to a $95-per-month, two-year plan with Telstra that she had negotiated down to $85 per month.
That included a brand new Samsung phone and 11GB of data per month, as her plan was bundled with her husband's.
Her contract ended on June 30 this year - but Mrs Shoaib said she was shocked to discover she continued to be charged the full $85 each month for several months until she raised the problem with the company, even though she would have already paid off the cost of her handset.
After complaining to Telstra about the extra $160 charged after her contract had lapsed, Mrs Shoaib was eventually refunded $90.
She also changed to a $49 phone plan, which gives her three times the data than her old plan.
Mrs Shoaib told news.com.au in the past, telcos advertised monthly plans with the cost of data and the handset listed separately, but that they were now "bundled together" under one flat monthly fee as a "sneaky" way of justifying higher charges.
She said the practice was widespread - and probably catching many customers unaware.
"Technically they are not doing anything fraudulently but my concern is that while I am of sound mind and should have known better, a lot of people such as the elderly might not understand this stuff and might end up being ripped off for years because they just think it's how much a mobile phone costs," she said.
"It's a sneaky way of handling phone plans these days."
Aussies Matt Jones, who founded telco OVO to help people avoid this issue, said contracts were a big problem for many mobile users.
"Mobile deals are getting better every month, but you're locked in to be overcharged for two to three years," he said.
"Add a handset charge to that and you're just paying through the nose for something that, because you signed a contract, your telco is under no obligation to let you out of.
"The only way to avoid this is to go prepaid, and find another way to pay for the handset."
According to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman Annual Report, 51,328 complaints were made about mobile phone services in the last financial year, with complaints about disputed charges for service or equipment fees accounting for 25.5 per cent of all complaints.
News.com.au approached Telstra for comment but a response was not received.
Meanwhile, new research from comparison site finder.com.au has revealed 2.8 million Aussies regularly exceed their mobile data limit.
The Excess Data Charges Report also found data-hungry Aussies had forked out $181 million on excess charges over the last 12 months.
Finder.com.au tech expert Alex Kidman said the arrival of unlimited data had ramped up competition among providers, meaning better deals for consumers.
"Many Aussies will notice that they have outgrown their data needs. ABS statistics show that we chewed through 246,765 terabytes of data on our smartphones between April to June," he said.
"Between watching videos, streaming music and the endless allure of social media, we're consuming more data than ever before.
"Many Aussies stick with the same provider but the reality is loyalty doesn't pay off.
"If you've been on the same plan for two to three years, it's absolutely time to start shopping around for a better deal. A little can go a long way when upping your monthly data allowance."
He said it might be time to switch plans if your contract had run out, if you were racking up excess data charges or if your current phone needs replacing.
According to the data, the average Aussie is now on a phone plan of 10GB of data, up from 6GB in 2017.
And over the last 12 months, the amount of Aussies on plans over 21GB has almost doubled.