Mobile phone customers need the skill of an accountant or maths honours student to properly unpick the detail of telco plans, Deakin University researchers have found.
In a series of in-depth interviews, Deakin researchers Associate Professor David Bednall and Professor Michael Polonsky found that consumers:
- Only have a limited understanding of data and what common apps used,
- Fear exceeding their call, data or text allowances and as a result buy plans that are larger than they need,
- Rarely look closely at the detail in the plan, with some finding them overly complicated and difficult to understand. Instead they chose plans based on numbers of calls and texts, data amounts, pre-history or friends’ advice.
“Unit pricing was introduced by mobile phone companies following the revision of the industry code by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) in 2012,” Associate Professor Bednall explained.
“But most people normally cannot be bothered or are too busy to go into the detail of the plan on offer,” he said.
“Where plans offered unlimited or infinite capacity for some features, unit pricing became irrelevant.”
Consumers had difficulty comparing plans to work out the best value.
“Only two of our interviewees, one a maths honours student, the other an accountant, were able to work out what they considered the best value”.
“One of them actually entered the figures into a spreadsheet and based on their usage worked out the best value plan”.
Consumers were also unclear of data charges and whether 1800 and 13 numbers were included in their plans.