ACCAN: “Megabyte Rounding Rip-Off” Sees Consumers Losing Data

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A report released by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has found that some consumers are losing around 23 per cent of their mobile data due to “a megabyte rounding rip-off”.As explained by ACCAN, megabyte rounding occurs “when a single ‘data session’ is rounded up to the nearest megabyte”, with data sessions taking place each time a user’s smartphone talks to the internet, from watching videos to receiving an email.

ACCAN notes that with some data sessions being very small, using up only a few kilobytes, some consumers are on plans that are using up their data more rapidly, with ACCAN advising consumers to avoid these plans.

The Megacharge report – authored by UTS information technology engineers, Brett Hagelstein and Mehran Abolhasan, employing software to collect and analyse over 20,000 data sessions from consumer phone bills – found a big range in the impact of rounding on mobile data usage.

“At best, one user only lost one per cent of their data to rounding, at worst someone lost more than 80 per cent to rounding,” ACCAN stated of the research. “The median amount people lost was 23 per cent. This means that if you are on a plan with 5 GB of data per month, you might only get to use about 4 GB before it runs out.”

ACCAN stated that light data users (using less than 500 MB per month) were the most significantly affected, typically adding around 80 per cent of their actual used data to rounding “overhead”.

“Megabyte rounding will have the biggest impact on consumers who are low data users,” ACCAN CEO Teresa Corbin commented. “This is data that consumers are paying for that they don’t get to use. Consumers shouldn’t sign up to these poor value megabyte rounding plans.”

ACCAN stated that six out of eight telcos that it was monitoring dropped megabyte rounding altogether in the last year, recommending that consumers look at the critical information summary (CIS) to see if a plan uses megabyte rounding before signing up.

“The use of megabyte rounding for mobile phone plans has decreased in the past year,” Corbin commented. “This is great for consumers, but there are still plans out there that can be a rip-off.

“Before signing up to a plan, consumers should do their research to choose one that’s going to give them good value for money. We’ll be keeping an eye on the industry to make sure that megabyte rounding and poor value plans don’t make a comeback in the future.”

Survey of over-plan data costs

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table style=”width: 602px; border-collapse: collapse;” border=”0″ cellpadding=”0″ cellspacing=”0″>

Provider

Type

Billing unit

Over-quota (up to)

Aldi

Prepaid PAYG

25KB*

$0.05/1MB

Aldi

Prepaid Pack

25KB*

$5/300MB (starting at)

Amaysim

Prepaid

KB*

$0.072/1MB

Boost

Prepaid

KB*

$2/1MB

Dodo

Prepaid PAYG

MB

$0.05/1MB

GoTalk

Prepaid

MB

$0.05/1MB

Hello Mobile

Prepaid

Not stated

$0.05/1MB

Lebara

Prepaid

KB*

$0.15/1MB

Live Connected

Postpaid

KB

$0.04/1MB

Optus

Plan

KB

$10/1GB

Optus

Prepaid

KB

$5/500MB

SpinTel

Plan

KB

$10/1GB

TeleChoice

Plan

10KB

$10/1GB

Telstra

Plan

KB

$10/1GB

Telstra

Prepaid

KB~

$2/1MB

TPG

Prepaid

KB

$10/1GB

Vaya

Plan

KB*

$10/1GB

Vaya

Data only

KB*

$0.02/1MB

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