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Avoid Bill Shock – Amaysim Unlimited

  • $40 - Calls, SMS, MMS, Tethering - all unlimited
  • 4GB of data included
  • Transparent, great customer service, simple
Written by Adam Wajnberg
11/12/2012

Bill Shock – the phenomenon of purchasing a service and getting a huge unexpected bill because of complex plan conditions – is still by far the biggest cause of complaints for all telecommunications services. But with speed-capped plans becoming the norm for all broadband services (including mobile broadband), the main focus shifts to Mobile phone services, which are notoriously subject to hard-to-understand ‘cap’ plans with tricky exclusions and other ‘bill shock’ drivers.

amaysim

All of the relevant regulatory bodies and watchdogs have chimed in on this issue. The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) has identified that a full 90% of complaints surround unexpected billing and excess usage fees, a 150% rise from 2010 – 2011. The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) consistently cites bill shock as the biggest driver of complaints in their yearly survey.
The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC) has gone to court against Optus, Vodafone and other in recent years to stamp out the use of terms like ‘infinite’, ‘timeless’ and other misleading plan names that come with a long list of exclusions that most would consider part and parcel of normal phone usage.

So how does Amaysim get away with the term ‘Unlimited’?

Click here to check out the $39.90 Amaysim Unlimited Mobile Plan, or call 1300 302 942

Amaysim is a Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO), one of a growing number of small telcos that lease the use of an existing network to deliver plans that network operators (Telstra, Optus and Vodafone) themselves do not want to offer. They concentrate on cheap, simple pre-paid SIM-only plans; plans where you bring your own (unlocked) phone and just get a SIM card and monthly bill from your provider.

Amaysim was formed by a handful of German entrepreneurs who saw a hole in the Australian market for simple, consumer-friendly mobile plans. They adopted the model from a European provider called Simyo, who consistently win awards for customer satisfaction across the continent. Similarly, Amaysim have been stacking up awards for value and ease-of-use since they started selling services in 2009.

Amaysim’s $39.90 plan includes all calls that could be reasonably thought of as standard – landline calls, mobile calls and 13/1300 and 1800 numbers. The last one – information calls – is a common sticking point for many high value ‘cap’ plans – they were created back in the day of landline phones, as a non-STD charged option for national customer contact centres, and for government services. Most mobile providers have traditionally not only charged these as standard air-time calls (with per-minute charging), they’ve also excluded these calls from cap credit allowances – contrary to the point of these numbers in the first place; which is to provide a low cost or free point of contact for essential services.

But the Amaysim plan goes further – all text and picture messaging is included, and a very generous 4GB of data is also provided, with an industry low excess charge of 5c per MB (or an option to bolt on a further 1GB of data for $10). Moreover, the $39.90 plan is available as either a post-paid or pre-paid plan, with no difference in value; meaning that someone who takes the pre-paid option never has the risk of exceeding their usage and paying more than they expected.

On other, less well-known issues regarding mobile and mobile data, Amaysim have demonstrated remarkable foresight and clarity. Their mobile usage app (for iPhone OS and Android) is stark and simple with no advertising or clutter; and Amaysim have long advocated for tethering, the act of using your mobile data with other devices, by turning your phone into a mobile broadband hotspot. Other service providers tried to charge extra for this ability, until the ACCC ruled that how a customer wishes to use the data they’ve purchased is their business. Amaysim also maintain an active, well trained and engaged customer contact centre, based fully in Sydney (for now – most providers will offshore customer service once they reach a certain size).

So, all these factors combined have helped to keep regulators off Amaysim’s back, which answers the question that industry watchers (ourselves included) have asked for years; with such strict regulation, isn’t it cheaper and easier for service providers to stop alienating customers and to offer fair value plans, rather than ripping off a few, pissing off many more, and then dealing with the TIO and the ACCC? It turns out that someone saw this problem and sought to plug that hole.


So why isn’t everyone with Amaysim?

amaysim happy customers

Can't argue with customer satisfaction

Amaysim is seeing strong growth, with excellent branding, a clever TV ad campaign and regular social media updates with customers. Their reputation is solid, but they’ll likely never get beyond a certain size for two big reasons.

The first is handsets.
Over 65% of Australians are now smartphone users, making us the most enthusiastic smartphone adopters on the planet. And over half that number again use high end smartphones – iPhones, the Samsung Galaxy line and the HTC One line.

This is due largely to non-exclusivity agreements; few smartphones are exclusive to any one network, driving competitive pricing. And the 2 year upgrade model (often negotiable for loyal customers) has driven early adoption and rapid uptake for the latest and greatest hardware.

So even though many Australians have a smartphone that is more than capable of handling their tasks, it’s too cheap and easy to upgrade to put people in penny pinching mode; and buying handsets outright is beyond the reach for many consumers.

Chipping into this phenomenon are issues with e-waste, diminishing returns in hardware innovation, and early adopters putting their old handsets into relatives’ hands, obviating their needs to get their own smartphones. And of course, penny pinching. That’s Amaysim’s key target market.

The second issue is with network. Like most MVNOs, Amaysim use the Optus Open Network, which still covers 97% of the population, but with less success than Telstra. Vodafone is a common wholesaler as well (through Red Bull, Crazy John’s and others) but their well-publicized network issues have scared most MVNOs away. Telstra only offers access to their 3G network, and charges a fortune for it. Their cheaper offering uses an earlier and almost redundant 900MHz signal, which has poorer range than Optus’ network. So Optus it is.

So a better question is; if you’re happy with your handset, not in contract and rarely stray out of a metropolitan area with good Optus coverage, why aren’t YOU with Amaysim?

But some cap plans are still cheaper, and still work for some people…

discount prices


Amaysim have kept their lineup of plans admirably uncluttered, but they do offer an option for light users who use their phone only in emergencies: Amaysim Pay As You Go.

This plan is $0 a month, with 12c per min for calls, 12c per text message, and 29c per min for 13/1300 and 1800 numbers. Most people walk on by, assuming low cost cap plans would be cheaper. Let’s take a closer look.

TPG offers excellent value mobile cap plans. They have a plan for $18 a month, with $550 call credit and 1.5GB of data. But call charges are 90 cents a minute; meaning you get about 550 minutes of calls, right?

Not quite. Text messages are 25.3c each, and there’s a 35 cent flagfall on calls. Douing the math is nearly impossible. But say you speak for 6.5 hrs a month (over 150 placed calls) and send 200 texts. This would be worth about $550 in cap credit, so well done. The equivalent from Amaysim, on their Pay-As-You-Go plan, would cost you nearly $80: so you’ve come out on top with TPG.

But that’s already a lot of mobile use. Say you made 10 calls in a month, for 5 minutes at a time. And you sent 10 texts in a month. Suddenly, you’re paying $7.20 with Amaysim and $18 with TPG.

On the other hand, if you had a bad month, with more calls made than usual and more texts (maybe a wedding in the family, or you were on an interstate trip and relied exclusively on your phone), then being on that TPG plan will get you a nasty surprise. An extra hour of calls might cost you an extra $60. 100 extra texts will cost you $25.30. And heaven help you if you exceed 1.5GB of data with 25c per MB being charged – an extra gigabyte suddenly costs $250!

This is not exclusive with TPG – all Cap plans with all providers are excellent until you exceed your usage – and then they become ruinous. Amaysim’s Unlimited plan is the best solution for this sort of thing – but even their Pay-As-You-Go option will save you from having a heart attack in a bad month (an extra hour of unexpected usage on Pay-As-You-Go? $7.20).

Alternatives

magic sim

 

Amaysim don’t offer handsets right now, making them vulnerable there. And alas, none of the major providers can couple up this type of excellent deal with a new handset being paid off over 24 months – even though many people would prefer to pay $40 + $30 (assuming a top-flight phone is $720) than $66 a month with a cap plan with much less value and many more bill shock traps.

Dodo seems to be the exception. Their $39.90 Magic SIM Pre-paid SIM is a clone of the Amaysim offer, but with 5GB of data and 100 mins of free international calls to 50 destinations. They also sell big name handsets, like the Samsung Galaxy S3, outright with no significant markup (their $679 price for the S3 is the same as most other options, such as Mobicity or Kogan).

But if you don’t have $679 right now, they can do a 24 month option. For $76.90 (including handset repayments) you get  Unlimited calls (incl. 13/1300/1800), unlimited txt and 2.5GB of data- almost as good a value as their Magic SIM plan, and much better value than comparable Cap Plans from Optus, Vodafone or Telstra.

Of course, there are catches. Dodo’s customer service is typically rated poorly, though that has been improving. And if you exceed that 2.5GB? A whopping 50 cents per MB. The potential is still there to get big bill shock.

Conclusion

Both the Amaysim Unlimited and Amaysim Pay-As-You-Go plan are hard to recommend against, provided you get an Optus signal and are happy with your existing handset (even if you’re not, buying outright might be the better option). Every alternative comes with a catch or two that could see you getting the type of misery inducing bill that can take months to sort out. Amaysim deserves extra credit for striving for simplicity and transparency; the two things lacking most in the telecommunications industry.

Call Amaysim on 1300 302 942 to enquire further!

 

 

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