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‘Unlimited’ mobile use should do what it says on the tin

Unlimited texts and unlimited web data

Don’t be fooled by claims of unlimited mobile phone internet or unlimited texts by many mobile operators. You could actually be left paying a fortune for exceeding your ‘unlimits’.

I’ve just received a text from my current mobile provider, reminding me that my unlimited mobile internet use has come to an end. From now on, my data allowance will be capped at 500MB.

You might think I’d be a tad peeved at this news – but far from it. Instead, I’m pleased that my provider is being honest about the limits it’s imposing, rather than continuing to offer a so-called ‘unlimited’ deal with a host of small-print strings attached.

Know your unlimited limits

Several mobile operators – including 3, O2 and Vodafone – have done away with false claims of unlimited mobile internet in favour of realistic usage caps. But others, I’m sad to say, have yet to see the light.

  • Orange’s ‘Panther’ tariffs offer unlimited texts and internet, but texts are restricted to 3,000 per month and mobile data to 1GB per month. Exceeding your fair usage could mean restricted use or the benefit being withdrawn from your account.
  • T-Mobile promises unlimited data on a number of its mobile deals, but has a ‘fair usage’ limit of 1GB a month. It says it won’t charge you for exceeding it, but may restrict your use ‘depending on how often you go over your amount and by how much.’
  • Tesco’s ‘unlimited’ mobile internet contracts restrict users to 500MB per month (iPhone users get 1GB). If you exceed this Tesco could impose further charges or move you to another tariff.
  • Virgin – which is otherwise highly regarded by its customers according to Which? surveys – also sets a mobile internet ‘fair usage’ limit of 1GB a month on its unlimited packages. It reserves the right to charge for exceeding this at their standard rate. The same rule applies to ‘unlimited’ calls and texts, which are restricted to 3,000 apiece per month.

Tesco, O2 and Vodafone all offer unlimited call and/or text deals to which they apply fair usage policies – but each say these will only apply if your use is ‘excessive’ or adversely affects other users. It’s not quite clear what would be deemed ‘excessive’.

Generous allowances don’t need dressing up

Why on earth do operators bother with this level of jiggery pokery? In mobile internet terms, 1GB is a hefty chunk of data and unlikely to put most prospective customers off. So why not just advertise that limit, rather than hiding it in small print.

Likewise, I can’t imagine even prolific texters being put off by an overt texting cap of 3,000 texts per month – I’d risk repetitive strain injury if I tried to send 100 texts a day.

On the other hand, even if ‘fair usage’ limits will never affect you, I think you’d have a right to be upset on principle to discover your provider engaging in false advertising.

So, mobile providers, try a little honesty and make sure your customers know their limits.

Comments
Tracey says:
29 April 2011

I have just had the hard sale in an orange store where they described the internet as unlimited. My son 15 and a heavy gamer wanted a gaming phone and the man steared us to the windows phone with reassuring me there was no chance of me getting any extra costs added to the bill for going over any tariffs as unlimited.

Get home and the phone kept warning about data usage and fees when testing it so i rang them to be told they legally can describe 750mb as unlimited and I feel this is wrong and playing on their own customers believing them.

Worse to come as in the head office said they were happy we left the store understanding the unlimited refered to 750mb. Nope they said unlimited no risk or incurring costs as this phone was going to a 15 year old.

Rang them and pretended to be new customer and again they played on the unlimited so I added waht is 750mb then and you could cut the silence.

Recorded call with executive office who say they can legally sell 750mb of data as unlimited, therefore I believe certain of their staff dont want to explain the limits, yet happy to right it on a contract refer to it as unlimited in tiny tiny handwriting when tell them I cant read the form due to eyesight and it being so so small, so he says this is your 600 mins, this is your texts and this is your unlimited internet pointing at what i later find is 750mb.

When ring to query why say unlimited when it is read as 750mb and told because we legally have to sell it as unlimited by their sales team over the phone.

Left me wanting them to cancel the contracts due to feeling misled and them saying nope.

They also told me on the first call my contract was invalid due to them inputting the wrong call plan and than rather than 600mins we had 300 mins, but they would not honor the contract and go back to store.

So I say if they can when suit say they will void or not honor a contract, why when feel missold can they suddenly find the contract valid again.

I want rid of the two phones and they wont take them back. Dont think I can trust them again depending of the variety of their staff quoting different scenarios, but at the end of it they expect me to stay with them and put up with their miss selling.

Why use the word unlimited or do they like playing on it, because I just cannot fathom it.

Tracey says:
29 April 2011

Just to add they now have admitted we have 600 mins per phone, but are not willing to move on their so called right by law she said to quote 750mb as unlimited. i need help.

Tracey says:
29 June 2011

They are now accepting return of phones and cancelling the contract/s. I in desperation as they were not willing to change their minds offered to put the recordings on you tube so they might take more interest and listen to what their reps said to me whilst also alerting other people, they rang me back and agreed to cancel as I knew I could prove I had been misled. They did not admit fault and said it was due to we would not agree in so many words, but in any case no matter the contract was cancelled and I feel I can breath again xx

Phil says:
5 July 2011

I used to work for a phone company,and the MAJOR problem I had was that we were told how much data cost,but NOT what a Mb consisted of.People would always ask how it translated,in terms of time,but,its nothing to do with time,eg,in one minute,i could’ve clicked on 3 pages,using more data than if i had just been reading one page,so its VERY misleading when a Rep gives people ‘a time frame’,which happened a lot.
Also,different sites are not the same,data wise,eg,if its mainly a text based page,its a lot less Data than say a Photo,or Image based page and streaming even more.
Then,different phones or Web Browsers data output can be different too! I use different browsers on my phone,one compresses data so,in effect,it uses less Data.
The whole thing is an absolute minefield,which has a lot of factors to consider,none of which can seem to be explained easily. From my experience,as a Customer Service Rep on a helpline,I was given no guidelines on how to explain this to the Customer,so,thats why very often you get different answers,or they avoid a straight answer.
Maybe one way to help the Customer would be for ‘Data Intensive’ sites,like You Tube,could tell you the size of the Video you’re about watch,so you get an idea on things? than if i had just been reading one page,so its VERY misleading when a Rep gives people ‘a time frame’,which happened a lot.
Also,different sites are not the same,data wise,eg,if its mainly a text based page,its a lot less Data than say a Photo,or Image based page and streaming even more.
Then,different phones or Web Browsers data output can be different too! I use different browsers on my phone,one compresses data so,in effect,it uses less Data.
The whole thing is an absolute minefield,which has a lot of factors to consider,none of which can seem to be explained easily. From my experience,as a Customer Service Rep on a helpline,I was given no guidelines on how to explain this to the Customer,so,thats why very often you get different answers,or they avoid a straight answer.
Maybe one way to help the Customer would be for ‘Data Intensive’ sites,like You Tube,could tell you the size of the Video you’re about watch,so you get an idea on things?

Rob says:
1 August 2011

Regarding the Virgin position, A week or so ago, I received a call from a Virgin mobile sales rep who offered me an alternative (and much better) tariff. I’m delighted with the deal, which actually halves my bills and provides a better package, but I noted that I was offered ‘unlimited’ texts and data.

On looking at my account online I see that this translates into 3000 texts and 1Gb of data. So while Virgin do publish the limits online, their sales people are still quoting ‘unlimited’ with no explanation of what this means, which I think is wrong.

Finally, I note an earlier comment with regard to 3,000 texts/month being a sizeable amount, and to ordinary mortals like myself that’s absolutely true. However, hand the phone to a teenager and 3,000 texts are but a trifle!

phil: it’s up to Customer Services to help the customer, not youtube’s! And saying it’s not the customer service rep’s fault because he doesn’t know what a mb is, that’s just ridiculous! If you sell cars you should know what a car is, equally if you sell mbs you should know what a mb is.

It’s not an exact science, but you can give general guidance. For instance, an mp3 of a song will be probably between 1 and 3 mb. A non-HD movie will be probably between 500 and 700 mb. And you can make similar estimates for other stuff if you’re prepared to do some research.

I hate dealing with customer service reps cos they will stick to their script and won’t deviate from it one bit to help the customer. The reps say they have to stick to the scripts or they get sacked. So they are professional paid liars. What nice people!

Imagine you’ve bought a hot new supercar, and you find a highway which says it has no speed limits. So you zoom along it at 100 mph and boom! you’re busted for speeding. You’d be angry, right? Cos you’d been ripped off. Well, that’s what the mobile companies are doing, and the customer service reps are aiding and abetting in the fraud. There should be a law against it…

Phil says:
11 January 2012

TOTALLY agree with you.BUT,when i was there,we had ZERO training OR even advice on what to tell customers,this was before smartphones was the ‘norm’. i,Myself wanted to know from a personal standpoint,and not one single higher up could tell me. I was all for the customer,screw the script,if i could see the issue from the customers POV,id do more than techiquely allowed. My advice about checking what youre downloading is just that,ADVICE,if you have an idea,then thats half the battle.

Pete says:
26 October 2011

My problem is that I love 3UK. I have the one plan and I have used 50GB in a month and they have told me that as long as I don’t use it for illegal activities that’s fine.,

The problem I have is that I have just bought a Balckberry and added the bolt on to my account – but now ALL my internet usage comes out of my BB service bolt on. SO when I get to the bottom of the 2GB monthly limit I don’t think my e-mails etc will work!. Unfortuntely this is needed for things like FB and e-mail to work. ALso mean s you can get app world without it. Now it’s like £5 a month so no problem. BUT it makes me all you can eat data useless now.

I doubt I will get through 2GB in a month. I only did 1GB last month but I have just found my free spotify subscription ( which I was paying for with them directly) and now I don’t want to hit my 2GB limit!

Bobajob says:
10 January 2012

Do these execs think it’s still the 90’s or what? As an IT professional, gamer and heavy internet user (I wach lots of stuff online) with no choice of a landline, I find the download caps to be woefully inadequate for anyone with half an ounce of technical know-how and computer literacy. The problem is further compounded by the fact that the missus has her own laptop and uses the ‘net as well. I used my dongle in in a home router once, and raped a month’s allowance in 3 days, and racked up a £50 bill and was completely cut off for 28 days. Shocking.

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27 October 2012

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victor says:
19 December 2012

“In mobile Internet terms, 1GB is a hefty chunk of data and unlikely to put most prospective customers off.”

Who are you trying to kid? In real terms or even “mobile Internet terms” 1GB is pathetic. If you only use the net to do boring stuff like read crappy articles and send a few emails then maybe, just maybe you’ll make a GB last a month but if you want to watch videos, visit YouTube and play a few flash games then you’ll soon hit your limit. 1GB equals about 4 hours of video. That’s it. A months worth in just a few hours.

1 GB is perfect for anyone not looking to enjoy the Net. Pathetic.

I had been using a pay and go service from 02 but stopped after i began to see just how not-so-generous 1GB really is. At £10 a go it began to get pretty exspensive. I would hit my limit after a week or so and although the avoidance of a bill is an advantage it just became too much. I signed up for T-Mobile’s 1 month, 5GB mobile Internet plan. They offered me five times the data 02 had offered and all for £15 a month. Plus, they (according to their website) never charge for going over your allowance. Great! At least it would be great if it were true. They have already charged me an extra £10 this month for exceeding my limit. Apparently they DO charge if you go over and still attempt to surf in a “data heavy” way.

They state that if you go over your limit they’ll restrict your usage by preventing you from loading videos. A few days ago I was watching a video when it suddenly froze. I checked my data and saw that I was close to the end. I tried to load other videos on other sites but found that I was unable to. I was somewhat relieved to see that T-Mobile were being true to their word. They had restricted my usage but at least they were not charging me any extra.

Then, after a day or two, videos began to work again.

I assumed that T-Mobile were throttling my usage as a measure against excessive data consumption. I kept ckecking my estimated bill on the MyT-Mobile site and saw that it had not increased from the agreed £15. I enjoyed YouTube for a day and then, that evening, saw that my bill HAD increased…by £5. I phoned T-Mobile to enquire and was told that the extra charges take a while to appear as they do not update the website in “real time.” Today my bill has increased by another £5. Apparently they have been charging me £2.50 per day for every day that I have surfed post-excess. That’s £10 for four days. Owtch.

And all after they promised NOT to charge me. HATE THEM SOOOO MUCH!!!!

No problem – just pay for what data you use. It’s certainly wrong to describe it as ‘unlimited’ and not fair if people who have more modest requirements subsidise you.

victor says:
20 December 2012

T-Mobile did not advertise their policy as ‘unlimited.’ I do not believe that any I.S.P can mislead their customers in this way (anymore.) It was sold to me as £15 for 5GB per month. I had read their website and learned that I could still use the web for ‘free’ after I had reached my limit as long as I did not surf the web in a data heavy way (watch or download videos etc), They say that I can still perform text and image based browsing. I knew that I would probably reach my limit early as I could reliably consume 1GB within a few days if I watched videos online. Whilst not ideal, I was prepared to accept the restriction in exchange for the no excess data charges. The problems have arisen because I had not been given the information needed for me to make an informed descision ie, a real time bill increase. Added to this is the fact that the data counter on the log in page is different from the one shown on the MyT-Mobile website.

I was expecting a bill of £15 at the end of the month. Today I was told the final tally would be closer to £50 even though we could all agree that the bill shown on the MyT-Mobile site is currently reading £27.50!

See, they’re crystal clear and totally upfront!

I have phoned T-Mobile today and (after speaking with three seperate reps) they have agreed to wave the data charges and take the agreed £15 from my account instead. Fine, but what happens now? Will I be charged the day rate (£3) for writing this post? They told me that I had reached my day rate today and all I’ve done is visit their website! How can I keep tabs on my usage after I’ve reached my limit? I cannot use their website since it’s not updated in real time. Incidently, my bill STILL reads £27.50 even though the rep told me she had ‘refreshed the system.’

It used to be the case that we were charged for the speed of our connection and not for our data consumtion. We paid a fixed fee and we got the Internet. Nice and simple. Today we’re fed moronic stories and lies about ‘peak times’ and ‘too many users clogging up the system’ or ‘heavy users will negatively affect all customers.’ This kind of brainwashing works too. Not on me, I am too smart to buy into their ‘philosophy.’

“…and not fair if people who have more modest requirements subsidise you.”

Of course you believe that. Why wouldn’t you? I guess me having more than one TV channel to choose from affetcs you in some way too?

Farhan says:
29 May 2013

For alot of you who are worryinf with dafa usage all andriod phones have an option on your phone and can limit how much Internet you can use

Courtney says:
28 May 2015

Tesco no longer offers unlimited data tariffs – seeing as they’re the only network to cap minutes texts and internet it seems ludicrous to offer unlimited.

franco says:
17 July 2016

BT sent me a 12 months unlimited reward , I read the “small print and it stated 12 gb limit . so I enquired
was this accurate ? The helpful guys in Scotland replied in a manner that lead me to conclude that it was
ok to do this if they offered Hot Spots for broad band but not to my home . I declined the reward and asked about complaint procedure as the unsolicited reward was sent to me as a BT user for 40 years and
was not an accurate offer that I interpreted as available to my home. They wasted my time.