Media reports that Telstra will put in place an “app cap” to cut off smartphone users’ internet access once they’ve reached their data allowance limit are not yet a reality, according to consumer group ACCAN.

The telco giant is yet to decide whether or not they will allow their customers to nominate a maximum spend to help them avoid bill shock, says ACCAN.

“It would revolutionise the telco industry if Telstra were to put its customers in charge of their accounts by nominating a maximum bill spend on their mobile phone plans,” said ACCAN director of policy and campaigns Elissa Freeman.

“Such a move would mean the end of bill shock – unexpected mobile bills running into the thousands – because a customer on a $49 plan could say, ‘cut off my data usage for the month once my bill reaches $200’, for example.”

In the past few years thousands of people around the country have been caught out with sky-high bills because they have exceeded their data usage limit when browsing the internet on their mobile phones.

Such a measure could be used in conjunction with other warning methods such as SMS and/or email notification once a customer has reached 50%, 80% and 100% of the data limit included in their plan. Consumers also need access to real-time tools to manage their data usage, not the substandard tools currently available which can have up to a two-day lag.

“The problem with phone ‘caps’ is that they aren’t a maximum spend, they’re a minimum,” said Ms Freeman. Putting in place a ‘hard cap’ with real limits would benefit everyone – the industry included,” said Ms Freeman.

“As [Telstra CFO] John Stanhope indicated yesterday, big debts aren’t in anyone’s interests,” said Freeman, following an announcement the company was owed $60 million in bad debt.

“Putting the power back in the hands of their customers would go a long way towards improving Telstra’s image and the rest of the industry would be forced to follow suit or risk losing customers,” said Freeman.

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