Big mobile mistake costing you $480
Australians are generally a savvy bunch, but when it comes to mobile phones, we're being taken for a ride.
As a nation, we ring up more than $770 million a month on mobile phone plans, a number we could slash by millions if we stopped making the same mistake we're almost all guilty of.
Kenny McGilvary, WhistleOut spokesman, told news.com.au a lot of people had a "set and forget" mentality around our plans and often went for more expensive plans than they needed.
"For a lot of people, they make their choice, get their plan and never think about it again," he says.
"But you'll find mobile plans, particularly those in the SIM-only prepaid space, are getting cheaper every day."
Finder's money expert Angus Taylor echoed this, saying Australians seemed oddly wedded to sticking with what they knew.
Other common pitfalls when choosing a phone plan, he says, include upgrading to expensive new handsets when your old phone still works fine and agreeing to plans with data caps way in excess of what you will ever use.
"You might say you feel secure with 40 gigabytes but if you only use 20 then switching your plan may be a good way to save money," Mr Taylor says. "Forty dollars a month isn't too bad but it adds up."
HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR PLAN
Mr Taylor says the quickest way for most people to slash their bills is to change to a SIM-only plan.
"If you're looking to save money, then absolutely (SIM-only plans are better value), but when people make that mobile phone purchasing decision there are emotional factors that come into play," he said.
"There will always be a place for that contract phone because for most people it'll be the better chance to get a better device."
Despite the pull of a new phone, Australians are increasingly wising up to the savings to be had - only 25 per cent of us are on phone and plan bundles now, down from more than 30 per cent in 2017.
THE BIG CON
The reality is, it's often difficult to compare providers to figure out if you're on a good deal, and the providers know it, relying on information overload and their tight contracts to prevent people from jumping ship.
Finder found 22 per cent of Aussies would make the switch to a different plan if they weren't locked into a contract or if it weren't so difficult or confusing to change.
This is exactly what is holding Nicholas Duncan, 30, from Melbourne, back. Mr Duncan told news.com.au he's stayed with an Optus prepaid SIM for years, even though he knows there might be better deals out there because changing is just too hard.
"Every month I think 'this month I'll change' and then it comes to the end of the month and it takes a few days to get my number changed over and so I just use the credit and buy it again," he says.
"It'll save me a few bucks, but unless I can time it perfectly then I can't use my phone for a few days if I carry my number over."
But Mr Taylor says changing providers is now easier than ever.
"The contract issue was bigger in the past than it is now," he says. "It's easy to hang on to your number and it works reliably most of the time."
Assad Saddat, 25, from Melbourne, can confirm this - he is currently with Boost mobile on a bargain $300 12-month prepaid plan and is no stranger to changing providers.
"I was with Boost when I was 13, then Virgin, Optus and now Boost again," he says. "It's pretty good value and good that it lasts all year."
But for some, what's not obvious in their phone plans is the unwelcome wake-up call. A main source of complaints from Aussies is bill shock when users exceed data caps and often find themselves stung paying for every megabyte or with an upfront $10 fee.
The latest complaints figures published by the Communications Alliance show there were more than 6.6 complaints per 10,000 users, with Optus and Telstra at the head of the pack for complaints.
But while it might not feel like it to punters, these results actually represent an improvement, with complaints dipping slightly from the January 2019 quarter.
Communications Alliance CEO John Stanton told news.com.au the latest results were a sign that providers were taking customer service seriously.
"Zero complaints doesn't exist, except possibly in heaven. There will always be issues that occur in a complex network," he said.
"But we think those figures can improve further for a range of reasons."
WHAT TO DO IF YOU HAVE A PROBLEM WITH YOUR PROVIDER
If something does go wrong, whether it's with a bill or porting a number, people can and should go to the telecommunications industry ombudsman (TIO).
TIO ombudsman Judi Jones told news.com.au the TIO was there to help if consumers were unable to resolve their complaints with their providers.
"At the end of the day I can make a decision that's binding," she says. "The most common reason for a consumer to contact us is a problem with the bill, and after that, it's service quality."
David Ross is a freelance finance writer. Continue the conversation @FakeDavidRoss