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Complaints over excess data charges on the rise says TIO

Australians are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with excess data charges on their mobile phone bills, with complaints to the telco ombudsman about the issue steadily increasing.

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Despite new regulations that require network providers to notify customers when they have reached their monthly data limit, the number of customers complaining about excess data charges is on the rise.

That's according to new data from the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman, which has released statistics on the complaints it has received this year. According to the TIO, complaints are down overall on the past two years, but bill shock is emerging as trend in customer complaints.

According to ombudsman Simon Cohen, complaints over excess mobile data usage are particularly noteworthy.

"These complaints have increased despite the concrete steps taken by the telco industry since 2012 to make sure consumers are notified when they are near or at their data limits," said Cohen. "The speed of phones and networks has increased, and the data used by consumers has also increased. However, the plans consumers sign up for may not, in all cases, be matching their needs."

According to the TIO, issues surrounding disputed excess data charges on mobiles accounted for 3,678 complaints in the January-March period in 2014 -- a 30 percent rise on the number for the same period last year. Overall, the complaints have been steadily edging up.

"Innovative product offerings, well informed consumers and the right regulatory settings, as well as effective dispute resolution, are some of the ongoing solutions to these issues," said Cohen.

Telcos are facing greater scrutiny over billing, with the ACCC recently announcing that it will begin regulating SMS charges, finding that network providers have been charging customers significantly more than it actually costs to provide text message services.