T-Mobile UK Capped Data Charge - Hidden Rip Off

Mon, Jul 6, 2009 4-minute read

I recently managed to get my wife to become a regular user of mobile data, great I thought this stuff is finally getting mainstream traction, Until we got this months bill…

She’s got her gmail setup on her phone and occasionally will Google for something but certainly nothing that would say she was a regular user. Until I setup Google Latitude It works really well for us as we car-share so she can use it to check if I’ve left the office and am on my way to pick her up so she doesn’t waste time waiting for me. I found it great when she was working late as I could see when she’s left and get dinner on.

All was working well and I  actually managed to get her to leave it running 24x7 in the background, “Don’t worry I said it hardly uses and amount of data and besides TMobile have their £1 per day cap so it can’t cost you that much”

Just for running latitude in the background they wanted nearly 20 quid from her! The immediate reaction was “I’m tuning it off, I don’t want to use any data services ever again”

Now I though, this can’t be right something must have gone wrong, first I checked if she’d used anything else on her phone, no just latitude. OK maybe something’s gone wrong with the application and its stuck in a loop eating up data. So I started to look at the itemization, now this has taken me several attempts over the weekend to understand and it was only with the help of a couple of colleagues that we finally managed to understand the bill (mostly)

OK, where to start with this, well firstly the data size column quotes 3values separated by colons whereas the actual data is 4 fields separated by a dot. At first it looked like she was getting through 135mb a day, blimey that must have hit the battery! however with a bit of reverse calculations on the pricing it turns out to be about 135k a day.  Those 4 fields are Gigabytes.Megabytes.Kilobytes.Bytes I’m not sure if they count a meg as 1000k or 1024k but lets not argue,  how on earth can 135k a day run up £20 in a month?

Well here’s the kicker, T-Mobile’s standard data rate is a whopping £7.47 per MB (actually advertised at 0.73p/killoByte) yep that’s right, of course most people don’t see that as there is a cap at £1 per day, Now this works out OK if you use a fair amount of data, doing things like downloading a few meg of email and browsing a couple of web pages, however if you run a low volume constant background service you get screwed, the £1 day cap would  mean that you only pay for the first 136k of data. Just over latitudes typical usage,however if you only use under that 136k a  day you pay dearly

Now I’d like to give Tmobile the benefit of the doubt here and that this is a well intentioned tariff to avoid bill shock and yes I guess latitude isn’t a typical service (yet!) however it just goes to show how you can’t rely on a time or volume based charging model and keep happy customers, to a customer the value isn;t in the amount of data or in how long they’ve been running it the value is in the content and £20 is a lot to pay just so that you husband can get the dinner on the table!

Had the cap not been in place and it was just a standard £1/mb the bill would have only been £3.50 which is a far more reasonable amount. The guy in the TMobile store simply said " Oh you can get a data bundle" but it seems a little excessive to pay £7.50 for 1Gb of data to only use 0.3% of that. I don’t really know what the answer is here but I think this is just another example of a charging model that doesn’t quite work!

If anyone would from TMobile reads this and wants to get in touch leave a comment or message me on twitter, I’d love to get this sorted and restore my wife’s faith on mobile data