Smaller Australian Telcos Required To Have Usage Alert For Customers To Avoid Phone Bill Shock

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority has ordered smaller telcos in the country to implement a provision in the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code.

That provision requires telcos to send usage alert to its customers so they wouldn't experience phone bill shock when they receive their bills at the end of the month.

Beginning Sept 1, all smaller telcos were mandated to send usage alerts to all customers within 24 hours once they reach 50, 85 and 100 per cent of their data on phone and text allowances.

Since the code was implemented in 2012, the three largest telcos - Telstra, Optus and Vodafone - complied and sent usage alerts through text messages. However, most of the smaller telcos have not complied with the usage alert order.

By Sept 1, the big 3 would also send usage alerts when customers reach 50, 85 or 100 per cent of their voice calls or SMS.

Besides the user alert, the code also strengthened regulations on advertising to include placing limits on the use of certain worlds such as "cap." "free" and "unlimited." The code also required the use of standard billing practices and streamlined handling of complaints with a two-day deadline to solve urgent complaints.

From January to March 2014, the authority received 594 complaints daily, down from 842 per day in 2012, prior to the code's implementation.

Bill shock often happens when phone and computer users enjoy downloading apps, opening Web sites, surfing the net, playing games and buying things from Google Play or iTunes that they forget such activities use their data allowance. On some occasions, it also adds to their phone or Internet bill when they exceed their data allowance.

In response to the ever-growing demand for data, telcos are coping by investing in infrastructure upgrade and launching new offerings such as Verizon's VoLTE, IBM will open two data centres in Australia in 2014 and Optus will launch in September with its own satellite.

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