Tag Archives | 3 Ireland

Mobile phone costs, top ups, and offers and gaming CallCosts.ie

In a recent article for the Irish News of the World, I was looking at the cost of sending texts. As I’ve highlighted for many of the articles I’ve written, the multitude of different offers and pricing models across many consumer products such as texting almost seems to be an intentional effort on the part of service providers to make any comparisons impossible across companies.

It’s therefore impossible to compare like with like, and this just shows how difficult a job it is for CallCosts.ie to provide an accurate picture.

Take, for example, the top up offers currently advertised by the mobile providers on their website:

  • Vodafone – Get 20% bonus credit when you top up by €30 or more here
  • O2 – 10% extra when you top up by €30
  • Meteor – no direct offers available on their website at the moment
  • Three – no direct offers available on their website at the moment
  • Tesco Mobile – top up by €10 and get €10 free, top up by €20 and get €20 free and top up by €30 and get €30 free.

It should be noted that many of these offers have some catchy small print included that should be checked before assuming everything is straightforward. For example, free top up credit can’t always be carried over from month to month and your paid credit is always used first before your free credit.

Using the CallCosts.ie website to try to work out the cheapest way to send texts is an example of the wide variety in packages avaialble to customers – for example, as can be seen above, mobile operators seem reluctant to provide the same top up value offers, nor provide the same numbers of inclusive minutes or texts.

Its also well known within the mobile industry that the CallCosts.ie website can be “gamed” – that is, it’s known what combinations of free texts, or add-on text bundles or minutes bundles, can be made available on any of their standard packages to try to get them to the top of the CallCosts comparison listings for best value.

And the CallCosts.ie website clearly states that this is possible, so why wouldn’t the mobile companies, take advantage of that:

From the Model Assumptions section of the CallCosts.ie website, Assumption regarding add-ons and pre-paid discounts:

In providing a result, callcosts.ie assumes the user will choose tariffs/payment options and features available which if availed of can lower their costs.

Consequently, callcosts.ie will calculate if a top-up discount or a tariff add-on feature can lower the cost to the user and, if so, indicate whether this feature has been included in the calculation when providing a result.

It is assumed that the user will purchase the add-on or will top up by the required minimum top-up level in order to avail of the benefit.  Please note a top-up discount will only apply where the users spend level passes the initial threshold at which the top up discount becomes available.

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Mobile Broadband – Options and prices examined

Irish News of the World

May, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Broadband on the Move

In doing some research recently, I came across the mind boggling fact that there are 117million mobile broadband users in China – about 40% of all interest users. Even more extraordinary is that these Chinese surfers are doing so without the benefit of the superfast 3G mobile broadband technology.

By contrast, there are about 9million mobile broadband users in the whole of Europe, with 250,000 in Ireland.

Ireland has one of the biggest take ups of 3g mobile broadband of all European countries with almost 25% of all Irish broadband users now accessing the internet using their mobile phones according to ComReg.

Mobile Broadband

Mobile broadband is sold in two ways – directly on your phone through a data “add-on” package, or a separate broadband modem with a SIM card that you can use to connect your laptop or netbook to the internet no matter where you are.

All 4 main mobile providers in Ireland will sell you a mobile broadband package, but like their other products, there are loads of choices which can confuse you into picking a package that isn’t really suitable for you.

Unfortunately, the CallCosts.ie website doesn’t yet provide a mobile broadband comparison functionality in the same way that they allow you compare phone call or text costs.

While mobile broadband can be brilliantly useful and convenient where it’s available and reliable, there are some pitfalls with mobile broadband that you should watch out for as otherwise you could end up costing yourself hundreds, if not thousands of euros.

Add On Data Packages

As I’ve highlighted before, mobile phone companies seem to specialise in providing product options designed to confuse the consumer. They do this with phone calls and text messages, and broadband data packages are no different.

So, the first thing to ensure you save your hard earned cash is to make sure you pick the right package.

If you’re a pay as you go customer and you just want a data bundle on your phone to access broadband internet data, then you’ll get the best value for money by using one of the daily packages provided by Meteor, O2 or Vodafone if you’re only going to have a small amount of usage every day. These will cost you €360 per year.

If you’ve larger usage, you could go for the Three monthly package which gives you 10gb of data usage for €300 per year.

You should avoid the Three weekly and daily packages as these could cost you between €200 and €1500 more than the other packages.

As a pay monthly customer, the data packages on your mobile are far poorer value across all 4 mobile companies. The problem with these packages is that they charge you per month, but they provide you with very small amounts of data per month.

The worst value is the Meteor €9.99 per month package which will cost you €120 per year, but for only 3GB of data – O2 provide the same package for a saving of €30 per month – but it’s still poor value for money.

If you need more data per month, then either Meteor or O2 provide 10gb data bundles for €360 per year. The best value is the Three €19.99 package for 10gb per month – which at €240 for the year is a saving of €120.

Broadband Modem Packages

The biggest focus for the mobile companies at the moment appears to be the mobile broadband modem market where you must buy a standalone “dongle” (or broadband modem) that will allow laptop users connect to the internet while on the move. This broadband modem has it’s own SIM card for connecting to the network and you then pay a monthly contract to connect to the internet.

As a pay monthly customer, you’ll get the best value for money when it comes to getting broadband from the mobile companies. The best value for money out there is the O2 basic modem package where you’ll get 120gb of data for the year for €379.

Vodafone and Meteor provide cheaper deals, around €235 per year, but you only get half the amount of data – 60gb.

Downloading abroad

The simple piece of advice here is to not use your data package when you’re abroad. The European Commission is addressing the high costs that mobile phone companies charge their customers for data when they’re roaming, but until then, it’s best to completely avoid this.

As a comparison, in Ireland you can get 50mb of data for 99c as a pay as you go customer. If you’re roaming abroad, that same 50mb will cost you €14.58 in Europe and €30.28 in the rest of the world if you’re a Vodafone pay monthly customer. 50mb of data is the equivalent of about 2 albums of music

Out of Bundle Usage

The worst scare story of someone getting caught out using their mobile phone for data while abroad was one person in the UK who came home to a bill for over £22,000.

Going over the top

The third key thing to watch out for when you’re using your mobile broadband – on your phone or through a modem – is to make very sure that you don’t go over your data limits.

If you have a package that gives you 500mb or 10gb, it will prove very expensive for you to go over those limits.

ValueIreland.com has been told horror stories by readers of getting nasty surprises from their mobile bills from going over their data package limits. Sometimes, if you’re very early on in your usage, the companies might let you off if you tell them you didn’t understand the pricing, but most times, you’ll end up paying. Some people have ended up paying from €200 extra to €1200 extra for one month because of this mistake.

Most companies charge an extra 2c for each kb that you use over and above your limit – that’s the equivalent of an extra an extra €60 just to download one extra music track to your phone, or nearly €500 for one album.

This just shows the importance of picking your correct tariff when you sign up in the first place.

Don’t pay at all

If you’re keen to have your internet and e-mails with you on your mobile phone, then the final tip for you is how to not pay at all.

Many phones these days provide a connection will allow you connect to a WIFI internet connection. If you’re smart, you can now find places all around the country that provide free WIFI which therefore get your broadband internet on the move, but at zero cost.

Click here for a link that will provide you with information and links to a map of Ireland that shows where the free WIFI hotspots are around the country.

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How to understand your texting options

Irish News of the World

May, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Text Message Confusion

Do you know how many text messages you send each month? How much is your texting habit costing you?

In 2008, ComReg said that Irish people sent almost 25m text messages every day – that’s up from 9m in 2004. That’s over 9bn text messages sent in one year.

Across the 5 mobile phone companies operating in Ireland at the moment (Vodafone, O2, Meteor, Three and Tesco) there are almost 30 different ways you can be charged for sending a text. If I didn’t know better, I might think that these companies are purposely trying to confuse us.

Most of these companies will provide packages that will either charge you per text, or depending on how much you spend per month, will provide you with “inclusive texts”. These inclusive texts are mainly available on monthly post pay contracts, varying from 30 with Meteor to 2850 on certain Three contracts.

Text Costs

If you’re paying by individual text, the cheapest company at the moment is Three who charge a promotional offer of 3c per text until the end of June on their 3Pay package. The Three Pay Monthly contract will cost you from 6c to 8c per text.

All the other mobile companies will charge you from 9c on monthly contract phones to 13c on pre-paid phones to send a text message.

The craziest thing about all these text message charges is that they cost the mobile phone companies less than a fraction of a cent to carry a text message, so they’re making huge profits on each text we pay for.

Optional Extras

There are two extra features to watch out for when checking out how much a text message might cost you.

Firstly, most mobile companies now offer free text messages if you’re sending messages between people on the same network.

Secondly, most of the companies will now also provide text bundles or add-ons where you can buy an extra allocation of text each months for up to €10 and sometimes more. These will give you an extra number of text messages each month that normally bring down the average cost – down to 4.5c to 7.5c across all the networks.

Free Texts

O2, Vodafone and Meteor all provide 250 to 300 free text messages to their customers on their websites. For people who work regularly on computers, or have home computers, there is a saving of up to €30 per month available here by using these free texts.

If you have an iPhone or an iPod Touch, you can use an Apple App Store application called EirText that will allow you send text messages from your free text allocation while you’re on the move.

The application is free and if you’re connecting over the O2 network, you will have to pay the data costs. However, if you’re using a WiFi connection you have no costs at all.

Finding Out More

Given the complexity of the numerous mobile phone packages available, if you want to find the best offer available at the moment, the place to go is the ComReg website www.callcosts.ie.

As an example, if you send 300 texts per month and don’t make any phone calls at all, then the best value overall, where all your texts are “free” is to go with Tesco Mobile (assuming you top by €30 in one go).

Next best is the O2 Experience More pre-paid package where you must top up by €20 per month.

Using the www.callcosts.ie website, you can either check out the best value package if you’re thinking of changing of changing your mobile provider. You can also use it to compare your current package with others that are out there to make sure you’re getting the best value possible.

Savings

If you send an average of 10 texts per day for the month, your text costs alone could be costing you anything from €0 to €39 per month depending on the mobile company you’re with and the phone package that you’re on. If you make the switch from the highest to the lowest package, you could be saving yourself over €450 per year.

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3 Ireland at it again

Over the years, 3 Ireland have shown themselves to be absolute clowns when it comes to customer service – see here for posts from the past. A ValueIreland.com reader sent us in this e-mail detailing the latest in a long line of customer service failures. I originally received this e-mail in early March, and it was still 2 weeks following this mail before 3 Ireland finally sorted things out:

I bought a Handset: Samsung F480 from 3ireland.ie on the 10/02/09 around 11:00 pm for € 229.00.  After I placed the order I got a confirmation email.

-We are delighted to tell you that we have now processed your order and it has been passed to our warehouse team to get everything ready to be dispatched.
Important – your mobile can only be delivered to you in person at the address specified above and you will need to show the courier the payment card you used to place your order as proof of identity.

They don’t mention anything in the website about showing the courier the payment card when you place the order.   How will I show my credit card to a third party if I’m not there?

I called 3ireland customer service the following day at 8:00 am and I asked then if I could change my delivery address from home to my work address, because I’m at work during the day. The customer service person told me that I couldn’t change the shipping address to my work address. So I decided to cancel my order and so she did.  When I got home I had an email telling me your order has been dispatched even though the order was cancelled that day early in the morning.

I called 3ireland customer service again, the person which I talk with told me, take the phone and call us back, will send you an envelope and you can send us the phone.  When we get the phone then will start the process for your refund.

I called the following day and somebody else told me something else, do not to take the phone so that the carrier can take it back to 3ireland, and then we can start the process for the refund.  She said that she was going to pass all information to her supervisor.

I have been calling every day since February 11th and every time I call they just tell me your order has been dispatched, and then I have to start my entire story from scratch about what happen with the phone order.  They don’t keep any records of my calls because they say that I don’t have an account with then. Last time I called was the 30th February and they created an account and asked me to call again by the end of the following week, so I’m waiting to call again to see what they are going to tell me next.

This is the advertisement they have in the website http://three.ie/  “14 day money back guarantee”.  I have been waiting already for a month and still I have neither phone nor money.

I just went to the shop and I bought the phone and I’m still waiting from 3ireland refund, all this hassle for trying to save € 20, it is not worth it.  The phone price in the store was €249, just € 20 more than on line.

I will never, ever get close by 3ireland website.

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Even more problems for a non-3 customer

You have to admire the patience of 3 customers, or in the case of this e-mail below, people who aren’t even 3 customers at all.

At the beginning of February of this year I was contacted by an operator on behalf of Hutchinson 3G Ireland Ltd (under their market name of ‘3’ ) offering me an attractive mobile offer. As a content customer of their broadband service I was quite happy to agree to explore this offer. Hutchinson 3G dispatched a mobile phone to me with the relevant details for my consideration. This offer included a 14 day money back guarantee, I am aware that these are quite common and had enquired of their customer service of the precise nature of this. I was informed that I could cancel the account within 14 days and not be subject to any charges.

I decided that I was not interested in progressing further with their offer and contacted Hutchinson 3G customer services via the telephone to inform them of this. The agent duly informed me that he had cancelled my direct debit account and the suspended the account. I was informed that Hutchinson 3G would send me a ‘jiffy bag’ to send the mobile phone back to them in. As the end of the 14 day period approached I had not received the aforementioned ‘jiffy bag’ and contacted Hutchinson 3G customer services about this. They informed me that the bag had be sent out on the 5th March. The bag did arrive but not until 17th March, on the outer envelope there was the sorting stamp of an Post dated the 16th March, which gives one the impression that the ‘jiffy bag’ was not sent until much later than I had been informed. I posted the device back to Hutchinson 3G via an Post and have a receipt to prove that the device was returned via the post service paid for by Hutchinson 3G.

I understand that this is a long e-mail but I feel that I must first explain exactly what happened in order for you to understand why I am contacting you. I contacted Hutchinson 3G to inform them that I had sent back the device. I was informed by their customer agent that there would be no charges since I had cancelled the account within the 14 days, my account would however continue to be on the system until they received the device. Since that time I have received bills and letters stating that owe increasing amounts to Hutchinson 3G, this continues despite numerous phone calls to Hutchinson 3G customer services and being informed that they would contact their billing office to ensure that I would no longer receive such bills/letters.

I wish to emphasise that I am aware that Hutchinson 3G use a company called Sonopress Ireland to distribute and process their phone devices and that there could be a delay in one company contacting the other, or that customer services may be slow in contacting their collections/billing department however having spoken to Hutchinson 3G numerous times I have been assured that the issue would be resolved after such a long period. Yet today I received a letter from Ms Lorraine Erasmus of Hutchinson 3G ROI Credit and Collections informing me that they had “attempted to contact” me and that “unfortunately we have not received any payment”. As you can see I have been in contact and I have been informed that I do not owe any money. In contacting Hutchinson 3G customer services today I was, once again, informed that I did not owe any money and that they would stop the letters. However this has been promised before and did not happen.

As a consumer it is my responsibility to exercise caution when agreeing to a promotional deal, it is my responsibility to be aware of the legal terms and conditions. It is also my responsibility to contact their service provider to resolve issues. I have exercised due caution, I did understand fully the terms and conditions, and further to this I have been in contact with Hutchinson 3G. Yet despite following the instructions of Hutchinson 3G customer services I am at the receiving end of correspondence now threatening debt collection despite all that I have done to cancel an account within the 14 day time frame, return a device in the packaging provided by Hutchinson 3G (once the official packaging had been received by me) and promptly informed Hutchinson 3G customer services that I had done so.

As mentioned earlier in this e-mail, I am also a Hutchinson 3G Mobile Broadband customer yet I have had few problems with this service and continued to pay the monthly bill without complaint.

I have no problem paying any bill for a service that I receive but Hutchinson 3G have treated me in a most discourteous manner despite having been in contact with them. I have sent an e-mail to ComReg but I do not expect that they can offer much assistance. I would be grateful if you could provide any advice or help with this matter, this stage I am quite exhausted but I do not intend to pay for something that I do not have to pay for.

This particular problem is typical of issues that people have with 3 and because it’s primarily an issue of crap customer service, there’s no “regulator” or “ombudsman” that people can complain to. It’s a difficult complaint for me to respond to as there is no particular set of actions that can be taken:

As a former 3 customer, I have to sympathise with your situation. I too received the debt collection calls – but from a UK based company – for money that I didn’t owe them.

I don’t believe you will receive any satisfaction from ComReg – they’re normal response is that they don’t get involved between service providers and consumers.

Having received a number of 3 complaints recently, unfortunately my only advice is to wait to allow their communication channels clear themselves internally so that everyone finally gets the message you are from Customer Service.

One thing you could do would be to request a letter from the customer service people you’re dealing with confirming what they’re telling you on the phone. You could then forward this to whomever is still under the impression that you owe them money.

Another alternative, something that I’ve seen suggested in the US, would be to institute a 3 way telephone phone conference between customer service, the debt department and yourself, and have them speak to each other through you.

Finally, given the involvement of their debt department, and the potential that it could get escalated to an external debt collection agency, you should as soon as this is finished check your credit history with the Irish Credit Bureau to confirm that there’s nothing untoward on your record.

I hope there’s something in the above that might help a little. I appreciate the frustration and the delays, but given some other customer experiences I’ve been told about, there’s still time.

The final option this reader could follow would be to sent a letter directly to Robert Finnegan, the Chief Executive of 3 Ireland to explain the situation and let him know how the customer service department of his company is failing badly.

Sometimes this kind of letter works.

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Even more problems with 3 Ireland

Is anyone still a customer of 3 Ireland still? I’ve had problems in the past, as it seems, so have many others. We’ll make today a “problems with 3 day” here on ValueIreland.com.

Here’s an e-mail from a reader regarding their problems with 3 Ireland:

I signed a contract with three back in September 2008 which including me paying extra for a sony Ericcson phone . I was starting a job in denmark for a few months so it suited me to be on the three network which was also over there. I first started having problems with my phone over in denmark as it was freezing, turning off in mid text messages,conversations, etc. I dropped the phone into their store and they came back a few weeks later saying the phone was faulty

I asked three for a refund which they subsequently would not give and were trying to push a replacement phone on me which I didn’t accept.

The network coverage in denmark was fine, the phone was the problem in this case

I arrived back in Ireland in mid December as my job finished in denmark. I am based around the midlands and west of Ireland and realised that I was having serious difficulty with coverage on my phone.

People could not get through to me and were leaving voicemails which i was not receiving. In some areas 3 do not have coverage at all. I have investigated the areas in the last few weeks and have found that they have very little coverage in the Roscommon area.

I am also paying extra for an internet service which does not exist in my area at home which leads to false advertising of the service.

I contacted the consumer complaints department and told them my issues. They told me to draught a letter with my issues and register the letter which I subsequently did and sent to three.

I received a letter from three about a week later stating they would be in contact. They arranged two specific times to ring me but never rang me at the specific times. I called them back and finally got them on the phone on 24th february

The first conversation I was speaking to 4 different people within 20 mins

The abruptness of the first person I was dealing with was unbelievable and cut me off the conversation without giving their name and passed me onto another person.

Another lady talked to me for a few seconds and passed me onto another lady.

The third person I was talking to said the adviser had left for the day.

I realised at this stage they were passing the book and the situation would not get resolved.

Contact again was made on the 25th which had me 70 minutes on the phone

I explained my situation to the first person and asked to be transferred to her manager

Her manager said that if there was a technical difficulty with coverage in the area they would make exceptions to the termination of contract and termination fee. They keep insisting I will have to pay a termination fee if i  finish my contract even though they are breaching their own contract by not providing the service I am paying for.

I was transferred to their technical service team who confirmed there was a coverage issue ie no coverage in the area. I asked to be transferred to the original manager but again was passed onto someone different. This last person started again saying they were upgrading their service and wouldn’t listen to me when I stated I was terminating my contract with them. He kept saying I would have to pay a termination fee

He said he would arrange a call back within 24 hours and that was a week ago. “They keep passing the buck from joe to fred and leave me hanging there”

I have been a customer  with vodafone,meteor,o2 in the past and have never had any problems like this.

And my response:

Firstly, with regards to the faulty phone, 3 are well within their rights to offer you a repair to your phone, or a replacement, before offering a refund – even if your preferred option is a refund.

Having had many problems with 3 myself in the past, my initial response to the coverage problems would be to head for the hills. If they’re offering you some deal to get out of the contract and move to someone else, then to make your life easier, that could be the way to go.

However, another alternative would be to take 3 to the Small Claims Court for the non-provision of a service that you’re paying for. They’ve already acknowledged that they cannot provide the service that you’re paying for in your location, so I think you’d have a valid case to get your money back that you’ve paid already, and to get the contract terminated without any termination charge.

The Small Claims Court is available online here, and costs you €15 and can be used for claims of no more than €2000.

As I said at the start, you’d wonder that anyone is still a customer of 3 Ireland. Have you ever met anyone that has an 083 number?

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Waste not, want not – “Free” inclusive mobile minutes

A piece by Conor Pope in the Irish Times Pricewatch column recently, which I referred to here, also brought to mind something which I tried to highlight in a recent interview I did with the Sunday Times personal finance editor, Niall Brady. (No link yet).

Firstly, have a look at the quote in Conors piece from a Pricewatch reader:

“I pay O2 a monthly fee for unlimited calls to landlines and mobiles, which is fine,” he writes. “However, I have a very high usage on the phone during the day. I have to ring a lot of business and Government agencies which are now only giving out lo-call numbers.”

He says that if he just rang a normal landline he would incur no costs when ringing these numbers, but, because he has to ring numbers which start with either 1850 or 1890. The reader says that he has to “pay O2 a monthly fee” but that calling landlines “would incur no costs”.

Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense really, does it?

And therein lies the beauty, for mobile phone operators, of the “inclusive minutes” packages that they’re all selling.

Say you have a monthly package that charges you €50 for unlimited calls in a month.

If you use the 400 minutes in the month, then you’re paying 12.5c per minute. They’re not free – you’re paying for them. If you make 4000 minutes of calls in a month, then you’re paying just over 1c per minute for the calls – far better value for the money you’re paying. And obviously, if you’re using only 40 minutes per month, then you’re paying €1.25  per minute for your calls. But all the time you’re still paying.

Many of us will have pay monthly packages that charge, for example, €55 for 350 minutes in a month – using the O2 Clear 350 as an example. If we use our 350 minutes every month, the best value for money we’re getting is 15.7c per minute.

If you go over your 350 minutes, you’ll be charged the standing rate of 25c per minute.

But if you don’t use your full 350 minutes per month, you’ll end up paying even more per minute for your calls.  Using only 100 minutes means you’re paying 55c per minute, and only using 200 minutes means you’re still paying above the standard rate at 27.5c per minute.

Of course, the above calculations can be clouded by the fact that you get “inclusive texts” as well – but these calculations are exclusive of that to make the point.

The point – just because minutes are inclusive doesn’t mean they’re free. How you use the minutes you’re paying up front for determines how much value for money you’re getting from your mobile package. The more minutes you use of your allowance, the better value for money you’re getting.

It’s worth checking whatever package you’re signed up to – what you’re using versus what you’re paying for. You should be able to get all this information from your bills – either paper or online.

Check out the average cost of what you use, versus what you’re paying for. If you find that you’re paying for more minutes than you normally use, then it might actually make sense for you to change your monthly bill pay package, or even to move to pay as you go, depending on your usage and average cost.

Just something to think about.

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Mobile Phone Taxes and Charges

Irish News of the World

Sunday March 15th, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Mobile Phone Taxes and Charges

Times are tough all round, with little chinks of light every so often – such as the recent 0.5% drop in mortgage rates. We were told by the Government recently that we’re going to have an emergency budget in early April and signs are that we’re going to be taxed more and experience greater government spending cutbacks.

In the spirit of sharing the responsibility (and the blame?), Fianna Fail and the Greens have opened things up to the other political parties to suggest what they think can be done to improve our lot. Yet it was a member of the Green party who came up with one of the more ridiculous taxation ideas in some time.

In the past couple of weeks, the Green Party Deputy Leader suggested that the Government could impose a 1c tax on every text message sent. This isn’t as original an idea as you might think though. Last December, the residents of Sacramento in the United States voted to impost a tax of 7% on text messages, as well as landline and mobile calls, and even calls over the internet.

However, never mind that Ms. White spectacularly got her numbers wrong – by about €1.3bn in fact – she’s actually going after the wrong people if it ever came to a tax on text messages.

If the Government want to tax text messages, they should tax the network providers. Did you know that it costs effectively nothing for you to send a text message that your mobile provider is charging you between 5c and 12c to send? If there is to be a tax on texts, let the networks pay for it out of their text message profits.

Since I’m talking about mobile phone costs, there have been several developments recently that should help you cut down on your mobile phone costs. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, I have recently cut €30 per month off my monthly bill, yet I haven’t changed my usage.

With belts being tightened, it’s being reported in many mobile markets that customers are switching from a mobile phone contract to a pay-as-you-go or pre-paid arrangement with their service provider.

Three of the five Irish mobile companies have come up with new combination type products recently to capture this change in the market – a set monthly pre-paid amount like a monthly contract that can be extended if you wish like, like pay as you go.

Meteor launched a product called Bill Pay Lite where you commit to paying €10 per month. For this, you get 60 minutes included, and free Meteor to Meteor texts, and you only have to commit for a minimum of 30 days.

Three launched a similar product called Best of Both where you pay €25 per month for 100 minutes to any network, 100 minutes to other Three customers and free texts to anyone.

Finally, the O2 Clear plans allow you for as low as €20 per month you will get 50 any network minutes and 50 any network texts. You must sign up for a 12 month contract, but you can break this free of charge with 30 days notice.

Apart from the value available, the beauty of these new products is that you’re tied to a particular company for only 1 month maximum. If you see a better deal elsewhere, then you can move at the end of the month – obviously while keeping your own number.

If you’re a pre-paid customer at the moment, it’s simple to switch providers. Just go along to one of their stores, and you’ll be signed up and ported over in no time.

And what if you’re a pay monthly customer at the moment? Normally, to cancel your contract you will have to pay the remaining commitment to your mobile company as compensation for breaking the contract. If you want to switch plans for the same company, you could just ring them to see if they might give you a deal or discount – no harm in haggling or negotiating.

Otherwise, if you want to move immediately, the cheapest way to do it is to move to the lowest cheapest plan your mobile company provides, and then cancel your contract. Your payout to them will then be as little as possible.

So how much can you save?

The average monthly spend of a pay monthly customer in Ireland ranges from €70 to €100 depending on the mobile company. Anyone moving to even the most expensive of these new types of plans could save themselves a huge amount of money depending on their usage – up to €900 per year if you’re careful.

Even pre-paid customers, with an Irish average monthly spend of between €25 and €35 depending on their mobile company, could save up to €300 per year if they were to switch and stick to the minutes and texts provided in these plans.

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I want to save money on my mobile bills. Any ideas?

Irish News of the World

February 15th, 2009

Diarmuid MacShane

Mobile Switching Savings

In the past, ValueIreland.com has provided its readers with many Top Tips on how to reduce your mobile phone bill. I followed these tips myself in the last couple of weeks and managed to get my bill reduced by about €30 per month.

I was with O2 and checked around all the other companies – Meteor, Three, and Vodafone – to see if I could get a better deal – I even considered going from Pay Monthly to Pay as You Go (with Tesco).

Despite it’s popularity, I found the CallCosts.ie website pretty useless. Like a lot of people these days, a big proportion of my bill is now data related and the website can’t cater for that.

In the end, it was actually just a different package with O2 that got me exactly what I needed for voice, texts and data.

When you’re checking your usage and the packages available, make sure you consider going for a lower tariff than you think you might need and boosting it with add-ons rather than going for the bigger tariff.

Add-ons can be added and removed on a monthly basis without changing your contract, where as if you end up with a tariff that’s too big for your needs, you may either have to pay a charge to get to a lower tariff, or you’ll just have to stick it out till the end of the year because of contract terms and conditions.

Check out here for more.

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3 Mobile are clowns

In my 3 Broadband post earlier this week, I mentioned my frequent issues with 3 Mobile in the past.

It’s been nearly a year since I moved to Vodafone, yet this week the clowns in 3 Mobile decide to send me a bill.

A bill which tells me that I owe them nothing. What idiots!!!

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