Telecommunications Commissioner Tristan Gilbertson has asked mobile operators to give customers the information they need to make better buying decisions.
In an open letter to Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees Gilbertson told the carriers he wants them to provide better comparison information. He also asks them to help steer customers away from needless overspending.
His move comes after a year-long Commerce Commission review of nearly 80,000 mobile bills. This took place as a follow-up of the 2019 study into mobile market competition.
The review found almost two-thirds of mobile customers did not change plans during the year. It found that one-in-four consumers could have saved an average of $11.60 a month had they switched to a cheaper plan covering their phone use.
A smaller number of customers, seven percent of the total, could potentially save an average of $48.65 a month.
Gilbertson says he wants to see the mobile sector catch up with other industries, say, electricity retailers. In that market there are comparison websites making it easy for customers to choose between options.
He says; “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.”
Tuanz says the Commerce Commission move is a step in the right direction. CEO Craig Young says; "We argued hard within the most recent review of the Telecommunications Act for a review of the mobile market, which was then undertaken by the Commerce Commission. These moves today are a clear result of further work as a result of that review.”
Young says he encourages carriers to work positively with the recommendations in the letter.
Fincap, an organisation that works to reduce financial hardship welcomed the letter. Chief Executive Tim Barnett says; "Some people may be able to absorb this extra cost in their household spending, but for others this overspending may mean they fall behind in their payments.
“The consequences of falling behind on mobile bills could include bills being sent to debt collection or that customers experience drops in credit ratings. These measures can be very harmful to vulnerable consumers.”