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It seems that carefully reading all that data download limit fine print and product disclosure information when buying something like an iPhone might not be such a bad idea, according to Australia’s consumer watchdog.

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“As often happens with new technology, consumer protection issues follow,” Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) Chairman, Graeme Samuel, said today.
The emergence of new smartphone technology, such as the recent release of the Apple iPhone 3G, has led the ACCC to issue a note of warning to consumers.
“The ACCC is particularly concerned that consumers may be misled if they are not made sufficiently aware that their data allocations can be exceeded – at significant cost.
“In the case of smartphones, consumers can download greater amounts of information from the internet than ever before. With this, comes the potential for them to exceed their phone plan value and incur considerable additional charges.
 “We have asked carriers to advise how they intend to deal with this issue and what information they will be providing to consumers”, said Samuel, adding that “Before consumers decide on which handset or plan to buy they should consider their likely data use, seek guidance from the retailer and then choose the most appropriate data plan”.
“Most carriers offer services to their customers where they can monitor their data usage or be alerted if they are approaching their plan’s limit. This includes internet-based usage checks and SMS messages. Many handsets also include data usage meters. Before entering into a contract consumers should inquire whether their carrier offers this facility”.
And in what could only be described as sating the bleeding obvious, Samuel noted that “Not all carriers offer high volume data plans, so we encourage consumers to compare the offers of each carrier, taking particular note of the excess data usage fees”.
“Consumers must think twice before signing contracts with a mobile phone carrier without upfront disclosure of all the fees and charges, including excess data charges”.
The ACCC has said it “will remain vigilant in this new area and where it receives concern over inadequate disclosure of terms and conditions of data use, will act quickly.”

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