Virgin Mobile diffuses bill shock with Data Rollover

In an Australian first for mobile users, Virgin Mobile is offering its customers a new Data Rollover feature that allows them to add any unused data to their allowance for the next month.

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Claire Reilly was a video host, journalist and producer covering all things space, futurism, science and culture. Whether she's covering breaking news, explaining complex science topics or exploring the weirder sides of tech culture, Claire gets to the heart of why technology matters to everyone. She's been a regular commentator on broadcast news, and in her spare time, she's a cabaret enthusiast, Simpsons aficionado and closet country music lover. She originally hails from Sydney but now calls San Francisco home.
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Claire Reilly
3 min read

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile is tackling a common bugbear of mobile plans with the announcement of a new Data Rollover feature on all postpaid plans, allowing customers to carry unused data over to the following month, without any extra charge.

The Australian first will let Virgin Mobile customers take any data inclusions that are left unused at the end of the month and add them on top of their next month's quota. Once you hit that month's cap, you'll be able to start chewing into the leftover data from the previous month, without having to pay excess data charges.

According to Virgin Mobile CEO David Scribner, voice and text rollover is a bonus that has proven popular with Virgin customers in the past, and the new Data Rollover offering is a natural extension of something that has always been in the telco's DNA.

"People are hungry for data and it's not fair that something they've paid for is snatched away after a month -- they should get another chance to use it," he said. "Data Rollover gives customers a second chance to use something they've already paid for."

Put another way, Scribner said it was as simple as saying, "You don't lose what you don't use."

While telecommunications providers are required to send out data usage alerts when customers reach 50, 75 and 100 percent of their monthly data limit, Scribner said excess data charges and bill shock are still big issues across the industry.

And although it may leave customers disgruntled, excess data charges are still a major source of revenue for telco providers.

Scribner concedes that Virgin may lose out on excess data charges or revenue generated from customers buying data add-ons, but he added that Data Rollover was a win for customers and so ultimately, it was also a win for Virgin.

The telco is hoping that Data Rollover will be the selling point that wins people over to Virgin, and rather than making money through excess data charges, the telco could "grow revenue through customer acquisition."

"If you deliver great value... you win the customer," he said.

The Data Rollover feature doesn't carry over endlessly -- it's valid for a month, and after that point the customer will return to their usual data limit. But despite this, Scribner said it was perfect for those that occasionally hit their limit.

"There is an interesting dynamic at play -- although less than one in five of our customers use all their data in any given month, many customers are 'occasional breakers' and over a six-month period, around 40 percent will break their data limits at least once," he said.

"One month you might have your head down in work, and the next you might be planning a party on your work commute or uploading photos to Facebook after a holiday. Knowing you have extra data up your sleeve to cater for this means our customers can worry less about nasty bill shock."

Data Rollover is available to new and existing customers from March 5, though existing customers must switch to a data rollover plan to take advantage of the deal. Only data not used in last month's inclusion carries into the next month. At that point, included data is used first, followed by any data value adds on the plan, then rolled over data.

Virgin customers will see little change to the telco's plans, with the exception that the AU$80 plan now has AU$300 worth of included value for international calls and text, up from AU$150 value.