“The results of the survey indicated that 48 per cent of respondents claimed to have received at least one unexpectedly high bill/charge during the period being investigated,”
OUR in its Billing Transparency Survey conducted in Q4 of 2018 and published in May 2019.
A Billing Transparency Survey by the OUR (Office of Utilities Regulation) indicates that the Jamaican mobile phone users are still bewildered by their phone bills.
The Billing Transparency Survey, conducted in Q4 of 2018 and published in May 2019, indicates that 50% of Jamaican mobile phone users continue to experience:
- Credit depletion
- ‘Shock bills’
- Confusing data plans
The OUR has made recommendations which telecoms Digicel Jamaica and Flow Jamaica have to implement within the next six months to improve their billing practices.
So what exactly did the OUR’s Billing Transparency Survey discover?
OUR’s Billing Transparency Survey – What Jamaicans are being overcharged for by Telecom Providers
First a few definitions!
Shock bills are higher than expected charges for postpaid customers. Credit depletion for prepaid customers due mainly to unexpected data charges.
OUR’s Billing Transparency Survey discovered the following common complaints:
- 22% related to out-of-bundle charges
- 19% related to roaming for calls and data
- 14% for exceeding monthly limits
- 13% for calls to an international number
- 13% for other charges
- 7% for exceeding monthly data allowance
The study also found that:
- Consumers above age 35 found it difficult to compare new plans and charges
- Consumers were still being billed for interconnecting through an overseas provider that applied its own rates
- Roaming charges have resulted in unexpected bills. Also, and not surprisingly, although call and data charges are available on the telecoms websites, customers do not check the websites.
All of the above may be because these telecom providers’ websites are hard to load on a phone, thereby using up your data, as there is no mobile friendly version of these websites.
FLOW and Digicel apps do not provide this information, but merely serve the purposes of collecting bills and payments from customers. This needs to change!!
So what does the OUR’s Billing Transparency Survey recommend?
OUR’s Billing Transparency Survey – Recommendations should include more info and more control
The OUR in taking guidance from other studies in the following countries:
- The Caribbean
- Commonwealth countries
They have set out the following recommendations to the telecoms providers to be implemented in the next six (6) months:
- Clearer pricing of products, particularly in advertisements.
- Wants the publication of charges pertaining to new service plans equally explained across all mediums
- Better itemized charges in relation to roaming
- Explain the risk of automatic roaming charges
- Offer an explanation on how consumers can switch off roaming and deactivate voicemail
- Pricing caps for postpaid customers to prevent bill charges from exceeding predetermined amounts
- Visible warning for Prepaid customers about data usage under their plans and when the plans are about to expire.
These recommendations make sense, somewhat.
Very few customers visit their websites, which are cumbersome to read, rarely updated and slow to load. Also, with the exception of Digicel, the telecom providers do not provide detailed explainer videos on how to use their services, something else that is also required.
“Service providers are known to use advertising and marketing strategies to obtain ‘buy-in’ from consumers, especially in regard to new services being offered. The OUR is, however, concerned that consumers can be misled in instances where key features of the product are not accurately represented,” said the OUR.
Customers actually do not get late warnings or inadequate warnings; they just do not read and implement instructions do disable data usage in the background as described in my article Stop Digicel and FLOW Apple iPhone and Android phones taking Data and Credit.
Finally Telecom provider need to remove roaming charges altogether. This as many tech savvy travellers just simply use Wi-Fi and messaging services to communicate and rarely use roaming. Many of these sudden roaming charges are due to persons accidentally making calls or sending texts thinking they were on their Wi-Fi in the country they are visiting.
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