NZ telcos urged to provide meaningful comparison info

Tuesday, 22 September, 2020

NZ telcos urged to provide meaningful comparison info

New Zealand’s Commerce Commission has urged the country’s three mobile network operators to provide more meaningful comparison information and guard against overspending by mobile phone consumers. The Commission published the open letter it sent to Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees outlining its review of nearly 80,000 consumer mobile bills, following on from its 2019 study into the state of competition in the mobile market.

The mobile bill review found 64% of consumers did not change plans during the 12-month review period. Additionally, 25% of post-paid consumers could save an estimated average of $11.60/month by moving to a cheaper plan that would still cover their usage. It also found that 7% of all residential consumers spent a relatively high amount on mobile services, given their usage, and that these consumers could potentially save an average of $48.65/month. Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson said some consumers are significantly overspending on their mobile plans due to transparency and inertia problems in the market.

“We want to see the industry catch up to other sectors, like electricity, where consumers and comparison websites are making good use of the ability to compare usage and pricing. We expect the operators to address these issues by increasing the usage information available to consumers and implementing measures to help keep consumers on plans that best reflect their actual requirements. This will improve transparency, empower consumers to make better choices and guard against overspending,” said Gilbertson.

The Commission has encouraged the wider industry to initiate a program of work on a ‘consumer data right’ so consumers can choose to share their usage, spend and product information with competitors and comparison services to help inform their decisions. The Commission has also asked the Telecommunications Forum to consider an industry-wide initiative in this area.

“We’ll review the industry response in our Retail Service Quality work program, which is focused on addressing key customer pain points across the industry as a whole, with a view to taking more active measures if required,” said Gilbertson.

The mobile bill review revealed that consumers who proactively manage their mobile plan are better placed to match their usage and spend. The Commission is working with advocacy groups to raise awareness and support customer choice.

“Our work shows that consumers need to ask themselves how much money they could be saving. Most mobile plans can now be changed monthly, so it just might pay to shop around to see if you can find a better deal,” said Gilbertson.

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