Mark Bridge writes:
In recent years we’ve seen many a newspaper headline about the high charges for mobile data when abroad. Horror stories that warned of bills exceeding £1000 per week.
As we’ve reported previously on The Fonecast, those days will soon be behind us. The European Commission’s new rules for mobile data ‘roaming’ will insist that networks introduce pre-set limits for data charges. Customers will have their maximum data costs in Europe capped automatically at 50 euro (around £50 by the time you've added VAT) unless they want a different figure.
However, as mobile internet security company AdaptiveMobile has recently pointed out, consumers need to pay attention to what their phones and laptops are doing if they don’t want to accidentally use all their data allowance.
Although a lack of awareness about higher charges for mobile phone use abroad is responsible for much of the ‘bill shock’ that’s reported, there are also occasions where users simply aren’t aware what their mobile connection is doing.
At least one of the high bills caused by downloading a TV show happened because a customer started downloading in the UK… and didn’t realise the download had continued when he reached his EU destination.
Gareth Maclachlan, AdaptiveMobile’s Chief Operating Officer, is now warning smartphone and 3G dongle users to watch out for software updates, especially if they’re set to happen in the ‘background’ with no prior warning.
He says “Despite awareness of the risks increasing, we are seeing time and again that consumers are still being hit by huge data bills – most of which can be avoided. One of the biggest culprits we see is automatic software updates. For example, a set of Window’s patch updates can be upwards of 40MB in size, iTunes updates are around 100MB and Apple’s latest OS update runs at over 700MB, all of which seriously drain data allowances and can lead to substantial costs for consumers.”
His suggestions include switching software updates to ‘alert’ rather than allowing automatic background updates, which would let users choose when – and where – their devices connect.
The EC’s new rules will certainly help cut the cost of bill shock… but without consumers checking their devices and without software companies making their products easier to understand, the annoyance of bill shock is likely to remain with us for a while.