Bill shock stories are standard fodder for current affair programs, but it looks like Optus won't be making an appearance in those tales any time soon. The telco has quietly implemented caps on excess data consumption to prevent users getting a nasty surprise come bill time.
Quietly introduced last year, Optus now limits excess data charges to just $200, meaning the days of customers receiving $2000 bills are a thing of the past.
Global roamers are also immune from ludicrous charges, although the cap level rises to $500 a month.
Optus chief country officer, Kevin Russell told the Israel Chamber of Commerce last week that charging thousands of dollars for excess data wasn't a sustainable business model.
"As an industry, we have become increasingly reliant on non-core revenues; revenues that come from breakage fees," he said.
An expensive decision
The choice cut back on excess data charges isn't necessarily a win-win scenario for the telco, which has already seen a big hit to revenue from the decision in its latest results.
"We got hit, we got hit in terms of our revenue, and our [Average Revenue Per User] was going backwards," Russell explained.
But at the same time, Russell believes that keeping customers happy by not draining their bank balance every time they use more data than allocated will help create real customer loyalty.
With Optus pushing its 4G network rollout hard, using smartphones for data is crucial for the network's success. So it makes sense for Optus to make it as easy as possible to use the devices without being penalised, Russell explained.
"If people want to use 4G and they want to use smartphones, they should be free to use them. If they go through the cap, they should be free to pay just small reasonable amounts to go up to the next level," he said.
Not far enough
While this is still a huge step in the right direction, ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin believes that the Optus measures don't go far enough.
""People choose their plans according to their budget – no one wants to open their bill to find out they've been stung for hundreds of dollars more than they intended to pay," she said in a statement.
ACCAN points to a new mobile consumer protection code introduced in Canada this week that caps excess data usage at $50 and data roaming at $100 a month.
Still, ACCAN is still calling on Vodafone and Telstra to follow suit with the hard cap approach to excess usage to end bill shock once and for all.
"If providers are really listening to their customers they'll know that this is the right product to be offering," she said.