Selecting a mobile plan can be a challenge, particularly when the range of options is too wide, or too confusing. Making sense of the different plans and services offered by competing ISPs and telcos can be a challenge, one that requires too much attention and concentration to overcome. Even worse, consumer confidence can be eroded, as consumers worry that they have not selected the right plan, or become locked into contracts that limit their mobile phone use.
This has long been one of the major pain points for consumers trying to decide how to go mobile. A look at markets across Asia where consumers have taken more readily to mobile reveals that sometimes it is the lack of choice that makes mobile an easy option. Limited by what is on offer, or what is affordable, many times the choice is cut down to “mobile or not”, rather than “which plan do I choose?” and consumers increasingly choose mobile. Offering too many choices can be paralysing, or worse, leave people to discover that it’s too late or too expensive to include the services that they want or need.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has taken a bold step to try to solve this problem, one that its Chairman, Chris Chapman, describes as an “unique and ground-breaking document by world standards”. He may not be too far wrong.
This document is ACMA’s proposed Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code (TCP) which will go into effect by September 2012. The TCP is designed to protect consumers against bill shock, and clarify confusing mobile plans by making ISPs and telcos more transparent. When the TCP is fully operational, consumers will receive alerts once they reach 85 per cent usage of their mobile plans (including calls, text and data), and telcos and ISPs will more clearly detail their product and service offerings, while making information about domestic and international call charges more readily available.
This will create the situation where consumers have sufficient knowledge and flexibility to select from a range of plans that are almost tailor-made to individual needs – and the result is the removal of a major point of friction. Consumers react best when there is the least friction, a principle that companies are coming to understand. Apple’s success, for example, hinges on exactly this: providing consumers with devices that work together, which can access media and software easily, all with as little friction as possible. The resulting technology ecosystem is such an attractive proposition that Apple is now the model that others are copying.
There is something for us all to learn here – making things easy for others may be difficult, but will pay off in the long run. Even the telcos and ISPs affected by the TCP may find that increased consumer confidence will pay off in the long run, if not the short term, and it may only be a matter of time before other authorities enact similar codes to the TCP.