Tag Archives | Vodafone

Top VI Tips to Save Money on Mobile Phone Insurance

Earlier this week I wrote about the hard lessons learned by an Irish Times reader when it came to buying and renewing insurance on their mobile phone, Hard lesson learned on the pointlessness of paying for mobile phone insurance.

Inspired by that story, here are the ValueIreland Top VI Tips on saving money on mobile phone insurance.

  1. Don’t buy mobile phone insurance

  2. When buying a mobile phone in a shop, don’t buy the mobile phone insurance they offer you there and then

  3. If you think you do need mobile phone insurance, their just look after your phone better

  4. Don’t buy the mobile phone insurance that might come with your contract with your mobile network

  5. If you’ve damaged, lost, broken, or dropped your phone in the toilet before, then maybe don’t buy an expensive phone

  6. Don’t buy mobile phone insurance as part of an add on on your home, or other, insurance policies

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Hard lesson learned on the pointlessness of paying for mobile phone insurance

There is a regular segment in the Irish Times Pricewatch column each Monday that this week is likely to fall foul of misleading descriptions regulations in the 2007 Consumer Protection Act. The Consumer Protection Act prohibits a consumer from being misled in relation to “the main characteristics of a product” (e.g. a newspaper article).

Under the headline “Your consumer queries answered”, with the tagline “Conor Pope answers reader’s queries”, an unfortunate reader went to extensive lengths to describe an issue she had with iPhone insurance.

The particular article concerned, Insurance upgrade did not come with iPhone upgrade, ends:

“She would like to know who is at fault here. “Am I stupid to think Vodafone and Carphone Warehouse should have updated the files at the time of the upgrade?”

And that’s it. The article ends. Journalist gets copy, but reader’s query not answered.

Stupid

Or maybe, since the answer to the readers query is “yes, you are stupid”, Mr. Pope decided to spare their blushes. The situation the reader found themselves in was as follows:

  1. Bought iPhone in June 2010 from Carphone Warehouse on a Vodafone contract
  2. Insured iPhone for €13.75 per month via Carphone Warehouse with Lifeline, New Technology Insurance.
  3. Upgraded iPhone with Vodafone in November 2011
  4. February 2013, child drops iPhone and breaks screen
  5. Reader tries to claim on insurance, but can’t because new phone wasn’t insured

Which led to the readers query again – “Am I stupid to think Vodafone and Carphone Warehouse should have updated the files at the time of the upgrade?”

And the answer, yes, you are stupid to think that.

Basic rules of Insurance

You insured phone A with Lifeline in June 2010 for €13.75 per month (now that’s stupid right there before going any further).

You bought phone B in November 2011, and you didn’t ask for it to be insured. You assumed it was covered, but we all know what assuming does.

When you trade in your Ford Mondeo for a Volkswagen Passat, you don’t assume that the insurance passes from the old car to the new car automatically – you have to ring your insurance provider and have cover switched.

Just because mobile phone insurance is cheap, stupid and a waste of money doesn’t mean that the same basic rules of insurance don’t apply.

It gets worse?

We’re not told, but based on the readers own assumptions, they have been paying insurance on phone A at a rate of €13.75 per month since November 2011. A phone that’s most likely being used as a paperweight, or has already been chucked in the bin.

That’s 16 months of pointless premiums. Or €220 wasted.

Or look at it another way. It’s quite likely to be more than the cost of an upgrade of a broken iPhone to a brand new one on Vodafone.

It’s just a pity that Mr. Pope didn’t highlight the mistakes that this particular reader made so as to enlighten others who may be in the same situation.

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Vodafone are added again to the ValueIreland Overcharging Hall of Shame

I missed out on publishing this addition to the Overcharging Hall of Shame back when it happened, but it’s worth remembering that it’s the highest profile businesses in Ireland that are ripping off their customers the most.

Back in this instance, Vodafone admitted to overcharging their customers. According to this news article,

It has emerged thousands of Vodafone customers were overcharged on their bills in error last week.

The problem was due to a processing mistake in relation to credit card direct debits.

Vodafone has said it has now reversed all charges, and refunded any additional charges that were incurred.

The company is apologising their customers, describing it as “an isolated incident”.

Their last line is curious – “an isolated incident”. Isolated for this week maybe, but not isolated in general for Vodafone – April 2009, December 2004, November 2004, and June 2004 were the 4 other incidents of Vodafone overcharging their customers.

Even better was the headline on other news websites – “Vodafone Overcharges Customers in Error”. Yup, cause they mostly do it on purpose?

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Understanding “the angles” when reading the newspaper

Recently, I’m becoming more and more aware of “the angles” or agendas of newspaper journalists when reading their published articles. Some would say that I’m just becoming more cynical. While some angles and agendas are not always obvious, you would have to sometimes wonder where a journalist is coming from when they’re writing a story.

So, as an example, when a journalist wants to address the issue of mobile phone charges being very high in Ireland – say 3 or 4 years ago at the height of Rip Off Ireland, they won’t accept the networks reasoning that it’s because Irish people talk more. As far as they’re concerned, it’s because we’re being charged more. It’s good to knock the networks after all.

ARPU – Average Revenue Per User

One thing to remember here is that the measure of how much a consumer is charged, as calculated by the mobile companies, is ARPU – average revenue per user. This ARPU value is made up of two factors – the actual charges for services levied by the networks, and the amount of those services availed of by the consumer. So, a high charge with low usage, or a medium charge with medium usage, or a low charge with high usage could all provide the same ARPU calculation.

But back to angles and agendas!

Say in 2006, the ARPU for Irish mobile users is said to be high compared to Europe – this is can only be because Irish mobile users are being charged more for their services – not that they’re using the services more. Dan White of Independent Newspapers wrote about this way back then – The €300m mobile rip-off.

But say that in 2010, the ARPU value for Irish consumers has fallen by 8% and from €49 in 2005 per month to €37.40 now *, then this can only be because the “Irish cutting back on the auld chat” according to the very same Dan White of Independent Newspapers.

In 2006, Mr. White had this to say:

The massive margins being earned by Vodafone and O2 in this country are costing Irish mobile phone users about €300m a year.

Further proof that Irish mobile phone users pay over the odds is provided by the fact that the average European ARPU is just €30.26 a month (€363.12 a year), compared to an Irish average of €47.37.

Whereas in 2010, when the Irish ARPU has fallen to a level that is still above what the European ARPU was back in 2005 (not commented upon strangely), there is no chance that the increased market competion amongst the Irish mobile market participants is given any credit for this drop. If you’ve knocked the networks before, you can’t obviosuly give them any credit now.

In 2005, we had Vodafone and O2, with a little bit of Meteor pre-paid, in the Irish mobile market. We now have a much stronger Meteor, along with 3 Mobile, and Tesco Mobile, all providing strong competion to Vodafone and O2.

But this isn’t even entertained by Mr. White – he strangely now accepts the logic rejected back in 2006 that the usage costs of Irish mobile users is dependent on how much we use, and by extension, nothing to do with the level of charges applied by the mobile companies. He’s now on the side of the argument he dismissed back in 2006 and now uses it to justify a position he cannot back up in 2010:

Having long been the most prolific mobile phone users in Europe, it seems the recession is teaching the Irish to cut back on the gab.

And as we all know, competition can and frequently does bring down prices. So, Irish consumers could actually be getting the same mobile services from their providers as they were in 2005, but are just paying less for them.

As just one example, I’m paying less on a monthly basis now that I was 2 or 3 years ago, but I’m getting vastly more for my less money now than I was for my more money back then. My ARPU for O2 would be down, but I’m not using their services less.

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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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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 costs set to fall, in 3 years!

Mobile Phone companies drop their costs – There was good news last week when the main three mobile phone companies announced that they were reducing their mobile termination costs down to 5c by 2012.

These termination charges are what the mobile companies charge each other when customers make calls across networks, which are obviously passed on to clients. According to this article in The Irish Times, the charges will decrease by up to 47% :

From April 1st next, Vodafone and O2’s MTRs will fall to 7.8c while Meteor’s will drop to 9.4c. The three have agreed to further staggered reductions between then and 2012. Vodafone and O2 will reduce to 5c on April 1st that year while Meteor’s MTR will hit that level on October 1st, 2012.

In a key statement though, the article also points out:

Although there is no legal obligation for the operators to pass the reductions on to consumers, it is likely that call costs will drop.

The beginning of the article did estimate that the reduction in charges could save consumers up to €100m per year – but obviously only if the price reductions are passed on. Here’s hoping!

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Vodafone added to overcharging list of shame, again

Vodafone has been added to the overcharging list of shame for the fourth time now since I started compiling it in 2004. They’re no almost as prevalent on the list as the Irish banks – not an illustrious claim to fame.

This time, according to the irish Independent, Vodafone has overcharged 100,000 of their bill-pay customers by upwards on €900,000. For about 60% of those impacted, the refund will be about €6.

In a perfect example of the need to check your bills, even online bills which many Vodafone bill-pay customers will have, this issue was only identified after a Vodafone customer checked their bill after seeing unusually high charges and contacted the company.

Since November 2004 since this overcharging list of shame was started, 1,701,628 Irish Consumers have been overcharged a massive total of €624,060,500 by Irish Businesses and the Government.

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