Australia's competition watchdog has warned consumers to carefully consider their data allowances when using 3G mobile devices to avoid exorbitant excessive data charges, known in the industry as "bill shock".
The rise in popularity of 3G devices in Australia, and particularly with the release of Apple's iPhone 3G earlier this month, is expected to lead to a dramatic increase in the amount of data accessed through smartphones.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) today warned that while data allowances might have increased, consumers might not be fully aware of the consequences of over-spending.
"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" says ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel.
"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."
An example of this additional usage charge is found in Telstra's iPhone 3G information pamphlet. Telstra iPhone pricing suggests customers sign up to an AU$29 browsing pack which includes 80MB of included downloads. Every megabyte of data used each month in excess of this allocation will cost an additional AU$1.
The watchdog encouraged consumers who are new to accessing the internet via their mobile phones to make use of data usage meters provided by some of the carriers, or by accessing similar information on the handset itself. The iPhone 3G is an example of a recent release smartphone that tallies the owner's recent data usage.