A major step in consumer protection has occurred in the US, with customers now being warned when their data usage and bills go above a threshold.
Is this a problem for us in South Asia. Yes, for the TOP (top of the pyramid) customers who actually receive bills. But for our clients, the bottom of the pyramid teleusers, there will be no shock; just disconnect. Because 99.7 percent of Indian BOP customers are on prepaid plans and 94.6 percent of Sri Lankan BOP customers are on prepaid. How can we address their problems? Lower priced data plans would be a good start.
A 2010 study by the F.C.C. found that one in six mobile device users had experienced bill shock, with 23 percent of those users facing unexpected charges of $100 or more. A separate F.C.C. report noted that 20 percent of the bill shock complaints it received during the first half of 2010 were for $1,000 or more in overage charges. Expensive charges can also be incurred for roaming, when a user travels out of a company’s defined area of coverage or, as often occurs, when traveling overseas.
Even so-called unlimited data plans often have a cap limiting downloads each month to a certain number of megabytes — a technical measure that, unlike a number of calls or minutes, cannot easily be tracked by the uninitiated. Last October, the F.C.C. highlighted the case of a 66-year-old retiree in Dover, Mass., who received an $18,000 bill after a promotional no-limit data plan expired without warning.