According to mobile broadband comparison website Broadband Genie, mobile broadband providers are giving confused and potentially misleading messages to their customers about mobile broadband usage, which could lead to thousands of people facing excess usage bills on their mobile broadband contracts.
Broadband Genie editor Chris Marling said: “While mobile broadband is a fantastic product, there are certain aspects that really need to be addressed by the mobile networks. We feel properly explaining usage, and especially how much data is used by different online habits, is paramount. Usage limits are a key differentiator between products and providers, often being the key to a customer’s choice of a particular deal, so the public need to know they can trust the information they’re given.”
“As a consumer-focused website, we hear some horror stories from the public, and it’s easy to see why. Usage trackers supplied by the ISPs with their dongles can be incredibly inaccurate, and we’ve heard many stories where this doesn’t wash with the providers when the big bills come in. We’ve read about £2,000 bills, £4,000 bills – and ones 10 times that amount thanks to using mobile broadband abroad.
“But perhaps worse is the usage calculators some mobile broadband sellers provide on their websites. The variation from site to site shows just how ridiculous an estimate they supply: for example, Virgin Media estimates a downloaded document at 0.1MB of usage, while Vodafone puts it at 3MB – 30 times more. The size estimate for a single MP3 varies from 3MB (VM) to 8MB Vodafone), a software program from 70MB (VM) to 800MB (3) – the list goes on.
“Also, streaming wasn’t mentioned on any of the calculators, despite the popularity of services such as Spotify and the BBC iPlayer – especially irresponsible when you think these can easily use 150-500MB of data per hour. That’s a good chunk of a 3GB monthly limit. O2, for example, charges £0.20 per MB over your usage limit – so every hour of streaming data could theoretically add £100 to your bill.
“We realise these companies are rivals, but they should discuss this for the good of consumers and be more consistent about how they portray these estimates – it is left to consumer sites such as ours to offer advice, but also to pick up the complaints about ISPs. And some are even worse: O2 and BT only have a couple of examples of usage values, but no calculator, while T-Mobile has nothing at all. It really isn’t good enough.”