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Serentschy warns against potential cost traps in smartphone use

“In recent months we have observed a sharp increase in enquiries and procedures due to exceeding data volume limits when using a smartphone to access the Internet, often resulting in inadvertently high costs,” Georg Serentschy, Managing Director of RTR’s Telecommunications and Postal Services Division, noted referring to a new focus in end-user complaints.

Caution: smartphone use frequently results in large data volumes

No matter what operating system or brand (Android, iPhone, etc.), smartphones are becoming increasingly popular and are sure to be found under Christmas trees this year. Yet, many users are too little aware that these gadgets rely on using the Internet and thus cause data transfers. Examples of use that run up data volumes include watching youtube videos, sending e-mail messages and surfing the Internet, while even so-called apps (i.e. tiny programs users can install themselves) often connect to the Internet. After switching to a smartphone, almost every user notices a drastic increase in the data volume used.

Contracts with cost limits safeguard against high phone bills

Consumers thinking about buying a smartphone for themselves or someone else should keep in mind that information on the data transfer volumes used is usually not provided actively. “With smartphones, much of the activity happens in the background: the rude awakening comes later, with the next phone bill, which includes charges for the additional data volume used. Even contracts allowing for generous packages of several gigabytes per month can, with heavy smartphone use, turn out to be cost traps. We therefore urgently recommend choosing an appropriate tariff scheme when signing a smartphone contract,” Serentschy advised. “A flat rate puts you on the safe side: here you pay the same total price regardless of the data volume used. Fair-use products also help avoid nasty surprises. In the worst case you perhaps need only reckon with the download speed being throttled as a result of excessive or ‘unfair’ use,” Serentschy noted. A linear tariff scheme, i.e. where charges increase with the amount of Internet use, can result in considerably higher costs, but the risk is still able to be calculated. Other tariff schemes can prove to be cost traps, for instance models that involve appreciably higher rates per MB after the data volume included in the package has been used up. With such products, it is advisable to take a close look at the rates charged for any data volumes beyond the included package. “It pays in the long run to accept slightly higher charges for suitable products that provide cost security,” Serentschy recommended.

RTR, the regulatory authority for media, telecommunications and postal services, has a conciliation body that clarifies in detail the legal issues related to the concerns and claims of consumers. The service is available on working days from 8 am to 5 pm by calling 0810 511 811. You will find additional information at http://www.rtr.at/en/tk/KonsumentenService.

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