TPG charges $5k for 1GB of mobile data

TPG charges $5k for 1GB of mobile data

Summary: For $5000 you could buy a round the world air ticket — maybe even two — a Prada handbag, or a dozen Apple iPads later this month. Or you could buy 1GB of mobile data on TPG's $49.99 Super Cap plan when you go over the 500MB per month cap.

TOPICS: Telcos, Optus, Telstra, TPG

For $5000 you could buy a round the world air ticket — maybe even two — a Prada handbag, or a dozen Apple iPads. Or you could buy 1GB of mobile data on TPG's $49.99 Super Cap plan when you go over the 500MB per month cap.

This was what TPG customer Paul Khoury "bought" when he decided to switch from Telstra to it and recently exceeded his 500MB allowance which triggered TPG's data rate under the plan of 5 cents per 10KB.

TPG's ADSL2+ business may be going gangbusters, but, according to its latest earnings update, it lost 12,000 mobile customers over the past six months. TPG spokesperson Craig Levy said that was because TPG didn't offer subsidised handsets, which people wanted, but a SIM-only package for unlocked phones.

"They want a 24-month plan and they want a handset and it's an expensive way of subsidizing a handset," said Levy. "The handset draws them in and that's not how TPG's model operates."

Khoury opted for TPG's model with his unlocked iPhone on 25 January. Besides the 500MB cap, it offered $1000 worth of phone calls. What Khoury didn't calculate, he told, was that once his 500MB limit had been reached, he faced a rate of 5 cents per 10KB, as outlined TPG's website. In the form that Telstra expresses its excess charges TPG's pricing for excess data usage is $5 per MB — five times Telstra's excess fee of $1 per MB; which itself is higher than Optus' fee of between 35 to 50 cents per MB. It is Optus' network that TPG resells.

By 23 March, Khoury received an email from TPG explaining that his balance had dropped below $5.00. "And we have initiated a debit of $4159.93 to restore the balance to $20.00," the email read. "Thank you for using the TPG mobile phone service."

Khoury immediately cancelled his credit card and contacted TPG to enquire about the bill and asked TPG's customer service how he had gone so far over his cap.

"He correlated this to my data use and asked me what type of phone I was using. I told him I was using an iPhone," said Khoury. "The consultant said this is often the problem it has with iPhones: they automatically start downloading software unbeknownst to the user. He suggested I needed to turn my automatic Wi-Fi detection off, which I did."

"But why would I be charged for using the internet through Wi-Fi?" Khoury asked.

When Khoury questioned the charges, the consultant said Khoury had viewed its terms and conditions and insisted therefore that there was no problem with the charge, despite the fact that the consultant had himself had needed time to calculate how much excess data would cost.

"I asked him to workout the charges if I went over my cap by an additional 500MB. It took him seven minutes to work it out, and he came back to me admitting it would cost $2500," said Khoury.

Levy's response to was consistent with Khoury's recollection of the consultant's view.

"If the situation is that a customer has used the data, and signed up to the rates that we advertised and had the ability to check their usage, then technically they are liable for their charges on the plan that they took," he said. "It's like if you took a credit card and spent it in a particular retail outlet, and then you got a bill at the end of the month. You are responsible. There are no two ways about it."

Levy defended the charge, saying that all its customers are sent a text message prior to their reaching their limit.

"We give customers a text message warning when they get to 75 per cent of their usage. So we tell them when they've used 75 per cent of their cap, which tells them where they are. We also give customers access to their online bills through their usage."

However Khoury disagreed that the text had been sent when he hit 75 per cent and was critical of the delays in TPG's alert system: six days after receiving the TPG text he said he received an email outlining that he owed the company over $4000.

"The text I received was not after I had used 75 per cent of my cap. Indeed in their fine print TPG state that 'Generally, usage records will be available online 48 hours after the usage event.'" said Khoury.

"TPG warns that it will debit your account as soon as your cash reserve falls below $20. In my case, however, it was six days after I received the warning text that I received an email advising me that I had almost reached my cap. That email advised me that my account would be debited for $4159.93."

As for TPG's website, Khoury said he has had ongoing problems accessing it. "When I signed up with TPG I could not log-in, so I called them to ask them for my details. I was able to log in. The next time I tried to log in I couldn't, so I had to call them again to reset it. The next time I logged in I could not get in," he said.

"I knew my number and customer number and had them at hand to check and used the same password I always used. So why was I locked out yet again? Why can you not reset a password via the TPG site as with other mobile providers?"

Since then, Khoury has lodged a complaint with the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO). TPG has of yesterday also failed to resolve the complaint within the 10 days the TIO offers under its process.

Levy insisted Khoury's case was unusual, that 99.9 per cent of its customers did not exceed their cap. "Let's say we go under the $19.99 product; we give them $300 worth of value. Although they might be paying a higher rate (5c/10KB) for data, they're not actually paying that rate because we're giving them $300 worth and it's included in the cap. I do understand that if they go outside their cap then they will have to pay that. But most customers position themselves where they are comfortable," he added.

Customers on its $19.99 deal can consume 60MB of data — less than half of Telstra's $10 mobile phone internet package — and after this they face its standard $5 per MB charge.

When asked if TPG would change how it presented its prices for its Super Cap plans to bring it in line with its competitors such as Telstra, Vodafone, Optus and even its own Pay as You Go product, where excess is charged at 2.75 cents per MB? "We don't have that many problems with it. Can it be refined? There's always room for improvement," said Levy.

Australia Dollars image by InfoMofo, CC2.0

Topics: Telcos, Optus, Telstra, TPG

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • If there is one thing I can not understand is why Mobile services cost so much, Surely after all these years of the availibility of Mobile phone and now internet access the equipment should of been paid for, if not several times over, its nothing more than a rip off from all mobile providers especially the likes of Tel$ra and Optu$, also has anyone seen that 1 gb a month plan for optus mobile broadband, read the fine print at the very end of the ad, it says something along the lines of, after 12 months the monthly download limit will be halved, don't these scumbag companies have any sort of respect for their customers, why do they constantly offer crappy deals, especially the likes of Telstra,Optus,3 and Vodaphone, Don't they make enough money, I know if one does some searching they can get better deals via other ISP/mobile providers but due to there low budgets that they work on they are unable to purchase TV commerical time, (Sorry about the spelling)
    and also TPG in this case should of actually called this poor bugger who was charged over $4000+ for his monthly bill, but thats TPG for ya, a cheap crap service, who dont give a stuff about there customers,
    and to Con(man)roy shove your internet filter where the sun don't shine
    thank you
    TIME to revolt people against mobile prices -
    at least in the UK they offer a free skype phone service, why doesn't this country have that sort of technology, because the big telco's are pure money grubbing scum plain and simple
  • Why is this TPGs fault. The T&Cs would have spelled this out clearly!

    Just last month I change my mobile internet service to Exetel. I pay $5 up front then 1.5 cents/MB or $15/GB. Cant go wrong.
  • I'll stick to Exetel thanks - just 5c per Mb for excess. And yes the $5 + 1.5c/Mb plan is great for my laptop! $15 cashback when you connect from our site
  • I've been using the Exetel $5/mth + 1.5c/mb plan for 6 months now. The biggest monthly bill I've had to date has been $18.50. That'll do me thanks.
  • MEDIA BIAS: Where was ZdNet when Telstra Big Pond kept it corresponding "Poverty Trap" (ie, "Excess Usage" fees of $150 / GB even in its -wired- services, eg, ADSL, ADSL-2+ & Big Pond Cable)?

    An order of magnitude difference in unit price, but still effective in causing disruption & economic stress to families, couples & struggling small businesses alike.

    We wouldn't accept similar practice, eg, on the part of Electricity providers, I - for one - urge Government to STOP the practice on the part of Internet providers (wired & wireless, alike) of charing EXCESSIVE penalty fees for (so-called) "Excess Use" of Internet.

    We want "World Best" Internet service at World Best or less cost, and any company that expects the freedom to OVERCHARGE for its services needs to be fined out of the game, ie, in that medium (eg, wireless Internet).

    They continue to take advantage of new users' naivete rather than focusing their attention on finding innovative ways to deliver VALUE for Money. This must stop.
  • An earlier commenter ended by calling for free Skype (as he see in the UK).

    3, for its part, offer an $8 / month "unlimited" Skype, eMail & other social networking Classic data pack that might come close.

    In March, there was a 50% Off sale on this & slightly more costly plans, making each of them examples of Value for Money, even in Australia's uncompetitive Internet market.

    Of course, to use the pack's several unlimited services (ie, without roaming fees), one must be in & using 3's Broadband network, but that's pretty easy to arrange for many city dwellers.

    There ARE some good offers on the table, but:

    1. people need to seek them out

    We must also let business know - both confidently & assertively - that we demand more than "poverty traps" (go ahead, use that word).

    We want & deserve (after years of overcharges by our LAZY Internet providers) World Best pricing for Internet services.

    Examples of World Best pricing for Internet services:

    1. FRANCE: http://FREE.FR (where Au $50 / mon buys UNLIMITED Internet at up to 100 Mb/Sec to your home, that INCLUDES unlimited France-wide calls, HD TV, etc. They even give you a TV recorder appliance box with contracts! Site is in French.)

    2. SWEDN: Stockholm Stads Net; again UNLIMITED Internet to the home, at up to 100 Mb/Sec (down & up, to encourage you to become a content-provider yourself) for under Au $45 / mon, depending on speed.

    In fairness, in AUSTRALIA, TPG seem - on their ADSL-2+ services, at least - to be helping to DRAG Australian prices - slowly but surely - closer to World Best, and we continue to APPLAUD their efforts.

    Of course, they shouldn't be gouging Wireless Internet customers to pay for them.
  • I think the problem is with the control of usage. No telco company is offering 'real time' tracking of downloads and as a result consumers with heavy usage devices like iphones are easily going over budget their intended budgets. I myself receive a slap for an extra $150 over budget.

    A simple throatling of the service like the ISP industry does now with every broadband account would be sufficent. This would solve the huge number of complaints the Telecommunication Industry Ombudsman is receiving on the matter.

    The irony is that in the end iinet and the other isps will come to the mobile market and offer this fixed clear cut service as a happy costumer is in the interests of the business and he consumer.
  • Has anyone got a good solution on how to fight these charges? Yes I went over the limit but I received no text messages.
  • If an ISP has not properly advised you of the charges, and if there is no way you could verify your usage, for instance, because their systems are failing to update in time, there should be a reasonable chance for fight the charges in CTTT (subject to the Ombudsman not be able to resolve the issue).

    What you should show to the Member, however is that you where not aware of the usage and you undertook the reasonable steps including mitigation steps, to control your usage.

    Then the new legislation might protect you because the Contract is grossly unfair. I don't think the mobile service provider would even go to the hearing due to their fear of creating a precedent, they would probably settle beforehand.
  • How did you go fighting your charges?
    I Just got a $700 charge