The Perils Of The Fine Print

PAT PILCHER patiently explains why our major telco’s new, so-called ‘unlimited’ mobile plans aren’t as great as they sound.


Last week was an interesting week in the smartphone space. Both Spark and Skinny announced new unlimited plans. These looked ideal – at least until you read the small print. Now they’re also offering carry-over data in a bid to match 2Degrees and Vodafone. Small print also applies with these, and it turns out that the devil is in the detail for both offerings.

Here’s what’s on offer:

Today’s announcement says roll-over data is being offered. This is great news as it solves one of the great rorts of our time. With conventional mobile plans, unused minutes and data vanishes at the end of each month. That you’ve already paid for them doesn’t seem to matter to the telcos.

A roll-over

Skinny and Spark’s carry-over plans solve this. Any unused data/minutes carry over into following months and accumulate. But there’s a catch. Only of 3.5GB of mobile data and 500 Minutes of talk-time can roll over. Anything else vanishes. Extra goodies such as more data or talk time (paid for as part of the plan) won’t carry over, either. I don’t know about you, but this strikes me as both stingy and a tad disingenuous.

2Degrees offers roll-over data and voice without similar limits to the amount carried over (unused accumulated carry-over data vanishes after 12 months with 2Degrees). So why does Spark feel the need to be so tight?

Am I being unfair? Roll-over plans also include a bunch of nifty goodies. There’s complimentary Spotify Premium, Lightbox and 1GB of free Spark Wi-Fi per day. Then there’s the unlimited data.

Both Spark and their value sub-brand, Skinny, announced unlimited plans last week. For $79, mobile users can get ‘unlimited’ mobile data. This should be great news. In theory, there will be no more worrying about bill shock after bingeing on Netflix. At least it would be, if it wasn’t again for that pesky fine print.

It turns out that after consuming 22GB of mobile data, your data speeds get throttled. While you won’t experience bill shock via Netflix, you will find it has become a stuttering slide show. Oh, and you can forget about using your phone as a Wi-FI hotspot or tethering it to other devices. That’s blocked.

So, while it may be unlimited, it isn’t all that useful. Frustrating eh?

A real roll-over

To be fair, you do get the same Spotify/Wi-Fi and Lightbox goodies, as with the roll-over plan. Spark/Skinny most likely are using throttling so their mobile network isn’t crushed by users going mad on unlimited data. Either way, it still strikes me as disingenuous. Unlimited should be unrestricted, unthrottled and, um… UNLIMITED! This isn’t, and those who don’t read the fine print may find themselves stuck in a very frustrating place.

*Disclosure: Pat is an ex-Spark employee.


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