'Bill shock' hits one in two mobile phone users: study

Mar 30, 2012

Bill shock ... only a third  of those surveyed reported using all of the inclusions in their phone plan.

Bill shock ... only a third of those surveyed reported using all of the inclusions in their phone plan.

"Bill shock" is hitting nearly half of Australian mobile phone users and is costing the country more than $557 million a year, a new study has found.

According to the State of the Mobile Nation report by Macquarie University, 45 per cent of mobile phone users suffered bill shock last year, with the median overspend $40 per bill.

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The main reasons for surprise were voice calls at 54 per cent, followed by data usage at 20 per cent and SMS at 18 per cent.

Dr David Gray, senior lecturer at Macquarie University, says when it comes to mobile phones, greater choice is not translating into value for consumers.

"The research shows that bill shock is consistently experienced by consumers signing up to traditional plans," he said in a statement.

"They are being offered lots of choice but it's not translating into value.

"Households are now wasting hundreds of dollars a year."

Of more than 1600 people surveyed, only a third reported using all of the inclusions in their phone plans.

People on a 24-month cap plan reported the highest levels of under-utilisation, with only a quarter believing they used all of their plan's included value.

The research, conducted in association with the mobile phone company amaysim, also found consumer perception of the industry was "dismal" and well below the European experience.

"Consumers in Australia find it harder to compare mobile carrier offers; they have little trust in the industry to respect their rights ... they find it harder to switch suppliers ... and consumers don't think that the mobile carriers behave ethically," the report says.

Despite an estimated $623 million being saved by consumers as a result of switching carriers, the study revealed that only 16 per cent of mobile phone users had changed.

Dr Gray said consumers needed to voice their concerns or switch providers.

"With new players agitating the potential for increased regulation, we think it'll take some time but the market will be forced to move towards a more user-friendly mode," he said.

AAP

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