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British consumers are not making the most of their 4G mobile broadband data plans, with an average of 3.4GB of mobile data going unused per person every month, according to a report from utility comparison service uSwitch.
Collectively, UK consumers are paying for 143 million gigabytes of unused data every month, suggesting that a great number of people are locked into mobile contracts that are far too generous for their needs.
This issue was particularly pronounced among 18-34-year-olds who, on average, paid for 7.5GB but used only 3.6GB, many of them drawn in by the idea that they need large data allowances to stream video and music or use social media, or by youth-oriented tariffs that “zero rate” some applications such as YouTube.
USwitch reported that 21% of customers did not know how much mobile data was included in their package, and 26% of people with a data plan did not know how much they were using each month. Older mobile users were particularly prone to ignorance when it came to how much data they used.
“No one wants to go over their data allowance. However, in a bid to prevent over-spending, and with so many contracts on the market now offering sizeable data bundles, customers can easily fall into the trap of thinking they need more than they’re actually going to use,” said uSwitch mobile analyst Ernest Doku.
“By overpaying for data you don’t use or need, you’re not only wasting money, but you could unintentionally be cancelling out the value of any perks or freebies bundled into the tariff as an ‘extra’.”
The report also found that over a third of users with inclusive data plans did not keep track of their use at all, and 5% of those didn’t know it was possible or how to go about doing it. Around 15% said they used provider-supplied apps to track data usage, 13% checked data usage in their device settings, 9% tracked it online on their operator’s website, and 8% tracked it using their monthly bill.
Doku said that with so many people failing to keep up to date on their data usage, it was a source of some concern that the 31% of people with inclusive data using less than 1GB every month were just the tip of the iceberg.
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He suggested consumers take an average of their use over a period of a few months to better assess if their current package is meeting their needs, and pointed to a number of third-party applications, such as Walletsaver, that can assist with this.
“Work out roughly how much data you need – and for added peace of mind, you can always add a slight buffer. You can also set data usage warnings or a cap to make sure you don’t go over your limit,” said Doku.
“For customers whose usage varies significantly each month, providers are increasingly offering packages that allow customers to adjust how much data they are using on a month-by-month basis, or carry a proportion over into subsequent months.”
However, while flexible contracts may give users an element of control over their spending, Doku warned that they often put the onus on customers to actively input and update their usage.