Internet data usage
Consumers continue to make complaints about internet data usage charges. They usually deny using the internet to the level that they have been charged, and their Internet Service Provider (ISP) is unable to give them the information to verify the usage they have been charged for.
A typical example is a customer who was on a 1GB plan costing $24.95 per month (a special, limited time half-price charge). She received a bill with a charge of $595 for data usage. She stated that her usage pattern had not changed that month, and that she was unable to find out why the bill was so high. She had received no warning about exceeding her data limit.
In some of the cases reported to TDR, the charges for data usage have run into thousands of dollars.
TDR strongly recommends that when customers sign up to broadband services they make sure they know:
- What the limit of their plan is
- How usage is calculated
- What tools are available to monitor or limit usage
- How warnings about exceeding data limits are provided
- What the charges are for data usage that exceeds the limit of the plan.
Customers should also be aware that:
- If they use file sharing software it may be possible for files to be uploaded from their computers even when they are not at home
- Unsecured wireless networks leave internet connections vulnerable to unwanted people using them for downloads
- Usage may include downloading as well as uploading
- Movies and songs use up considerable amounts of data
- The responsibility remains with the customer to keep their usage within the limits of their plan (using the available monitoring tools).
TDR’s experience is that many customers do not have secure control over the use of their computers. TDR urges bill payers to monitor use of computers by children or family members, visitors and other people that might have access to their computer. Unauthorised internet use may well account for the unexpected charges.
TDR would also like to see the Internet Service Providers playing their part in making customers more aware of the costs of data usage, how these costs may be incurred, and how to monitor or limit usage. If customers are told that their data usage will be capped at the limit of their plan, customers should be able to rely on this.
While providers do provide monitoring tools, TDR would like to see them routinely offer customers a warning mechanism or a capping of services, when the data usage limit is reached, so that the “bill shock” situation can be avoided and so that the hardships that occur when customers unwittingly run up extraordinarily large debts can be prevented.