Australian bill shock on the increase, and you can thank our obsession with data

Apparently we’re all spending too much on excess mobile charges, with almost $400 million wasted on bill blowouts, most of it from data alone. That’s what a new survey is telling Australian telco Amaysim, and it has a plan change it thinks will help deal with this.

According to a study of just over 1000 Aussies aged 18 to 64, mobile bills are blowing out because of texts, international roaming, calls, and data. Unsurprisingly, the biggest issue out of these blowout costs is coming from data charges, which accounts for 51 percent of the excess charges, with calls and international roaming at 19 and 10 percent respectively.

“Some of the mainstream plans recently released include high amounts of data for the first month or two at no extra cost,” said Julian Ogrin, Managing Director at Amaysim.

“Once people are hooked on high data usage, in my opinion they run the risk of ending up on high-cost plans that do away with the data buffet they enjoyed at the beginning of their contract, proving there’s no such thing as a free lunch. So while these new plans look generous, for many people they could end up being little more than a delayed version of data-driven bill shock.”

You have to wonder, though, if there’s a correlation between the faster mobile speeds and the excess data being consumed. That’s our line of thinking, since faster speeds will likely lead to data disappearing more quickly, which would then lead to needing to buy more downloads which then leads to data-driven bill shock.

We think it makes sense, so we’re a little curious why Amaysim’s study didn’t explore that (their words, not ours), but Managing Director Julian Ogrin did tell us that “our own usage and general feedback, plus wider trends, show that as smartphones become capable of more and speeds increase data usage follows suit,” adding that “on our own customer base we’ve seen average data usage increase 85 per cent in the past year.”

Amaysim’s users are totally reliant on 3G rather than 4G, though, so if Ogrin and Amaysim is talking faster downloads, it could be from the better 3G modems appearing in handsets these days, and the customer love affair with constant download services, such as Pandora, YouTube, Spotify, Google Play Music, Guvera, and anything else that relies on a constant download of large chunks of information.

To help solve this, and to possibly convince customers of other telcos that there is a better way, Amaysim will be updating its “unlimited” plan from the 1st of September, adding a cost of $5 — it now will cost $44.90 instead of $39.90 — and making all standard mobile and landline calls unlimited, with unlimited SMS, MMS, voicemail, free flag fall, and 5GB of data thrown into the package, too.

If the issue of 3G is a concern, Ogrin did tell us that Amaysim is “interested in 4G,” but wasn’t ready to make the move.

“We’re seeing growing interest in 4G from customers, but the majority are still on 3G handsets,” said Ogrin. “This will change over time and as 4G coverage increases it will become more popular, but current 4G pricing plan is still at early adopter stage.

“We’ve always been about plans that are accessible to a lot of people and give people confidence to use their phones how they like. When we can offer 4G plans that achieve that we’ll bring them to market.”

One change in the updated plan has our attention, and that’s Amaysim’s previous “unlimited” social media allowance, which is now gone and replaced with being charged under normal data rates.

While it’s unlikely that you’ll manage to chew through a gigabyte of social media usage — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, MySpace — you could manage some serious megs of data through these services, possibly killing 200 or 300MB in the space of the month, or more if you’re uploading plenty of pictures and videos from your life.

The addition of one gigabyte is certainly a nice inclusion by Amaysim, but the removal of a social media freebie makes the added downloads appear like a bit of a diversion, although a nice one all the same.

In any case, anyone keen to see what Amaysim is all about can do so on the new plans from September 1, accessing the 3G network with the unlimited plan costing $44.90 per month.