Consumer NZ has reviewed the three biggest mobile providers – Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees – to see how easy it is for customers to monitor their phone spend and usage. The Commerce Commission engaged Consumer to undertake this independent review.
Earlier work by the Commission has identified how hard it can be for New Zealanders to access the information they need to understand their phone usage. This lack of information makes it difficult for consumers to make informed decisions about what they need from a new phone plan or provider.
Last year, the Commission asked mobile providers to improve the usage and spend information made available to their customers, and to provide an annual summary of this information – along with a prompt to consider alternative options.
Consumer NZ has reviewed the work done by the three mobile providers in response to the Commission’s request to see what this looks like for consumers:
2degrees came out on top, providing easy-to-access, transparent information, which enables customers to keep track of their usage and spend. Information on the 2degrees app stood out as being clear, comprehensive and accessible, with a single tap from the home screen. However, 2degrees was let down by its annual summary, which lacked historical spend information.
Spark ranked second, providing good information to customers, but it took three taps from the home screen to get to usage and spend information on the Spark app. Also, rather than sending a self-contained annual summary of usage and spend over the past year, Spark simply sends a text message directing customers to check their app.
Vodafone came third, with an unwelcoming app which only displays usage from the previous two months, as well as the current billing period. The information on offer was not as comprehensive as that of Spark and 2degrees. However, Vodafone’s annual summary was the best of all three providers, giving a useful overview of usage and spend and a prompt to consider switching, along with details of its other plans.
“Overall, this review shows that consumers are getting better usage and spend information from their mobile providers than they were before, which is a welcome step in the right direction,” said Tristan Gilbertson, Telecommunications Commissioner.
However, the Commission has noted the significant variability in performance highlighted in the review. For example, one provider had the best annual summary but the worst app, and another had the best app but a disappointing annual summary.
“There are clearly significant opportunities for further improvement across the board – including for the top-ranked provider – which we’d like to see addressed before we run this study again,” Gilbertson said.
Consumer NZ Chief Executive Jon Duffy said that with the mobile market changing so fast, it is important for consumers to stay on top of their usage and spend, so they are on the best plan to meet their needs.
"Our research has found that more than half of all mobile consumers have been with the same provider for more than five years,” Duffy said.
“Telcos are now sending you better information about what you've spent and what you've used. We'd encourage people to make sure they use this information. Being on the wrong plan or staying with an uncompetitive deal can cost hundreds each year."