UPDATE: T-Mobile has retreated from its plans to cut data usage allowance for existing users. Original story below.
T-Mobile has slashed the data allowance on its ‘unlimited internet’ fair usage policy.
From February 1st T-Mobile’s unlimited internet fair usage policy will be set at 500MB for all mobile phone customers, both new and existing.
T-Mobile told us that the new policy would only affect customers accessing the internet on their mobile phones and would not affect mobile broadband users on unlimited tariffs – i.e. those customers using dongles or wireless dongles.
Previously the operator offered a 1GB fair usage allowance on its unlimited data plans. T-Mobile customers who bought an Android smartphone were given a 3GB fair usage limit.
‘Web-browsing’ will not be affected
T-Mobile says that its new fair use policy will not apply to ‘web browsing’, which in the operator’s somewhat skewed definition means anything other than ‘streaming video’ or ‘downloading files’ (such as apps or music).
So if you breach the 500MB limit, you’ll still be able to use Facebook, look at web pages, or check email, but you will face ‘restrictions’ if you want to watch a bit of YouTube or download a podcast or two.
The new fair use policy is detailed in a rather brazen notification on T-Mobile’s website.
‘Our Mobile Broadband and internet on your phone service is best used for browsing which means looking at your favorite websites like Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, BBC News and more, checking your email and looking for information, but not watching videos or downloading files. If you want to download, stream and watch video clips, save that stuff for your home broadband.’
Ignoring the fact that ‘web-browsing’ can define anything you do on the internet, T-Mobile seems to forget that the very reason many people bought Android phones from the operator was because of its 3GB fair use policy, allowing them to use their smartphones in the way they were intended to be used – i.e. for streaming video and downloading apps and files – as Which?’s mobile phone expert Ceri Stanaway points out.
‘Telling customers to save video for home broadband is a bit like giving a child a Buzz Lightyear toy but banning them from using Buzz’s rocket pack.
‘One of the key selling points of large-screened smartphones like the HTC Desire HD or the iPhone 4 – the ability to watch video, like YouTube – will be severely curtailed,’ says Stanaway. ‘T-Mobile customers who took out their deal assuming they’d have access to enough data to download, stream and watch online video to their heart’s content have a right to feel aggrieved.’
Have you been notified?
T-Mobile has also angered many by providing little notice of these fair use policy changes. Customers on the operator’s forum are claiming that they have either only received notification in the last couple of days, or haven’t received any notification at all, which may be in breach of T-Mobile’s terms and conditions.
Which?’s legal team are currently looking into what advice can be given to T-Mobile customers who want to cancel their contract as a result of these fair usage changes. So be sure to check back over the next couple of days for more information.
Have you been notified yet of T-Mobile’s fair usage policy change? Will this change affect your internet usage on T-Mobile? Have you been given advice from T-Mobile on this issue? Let us know in the comment section below.
UPDATE: Ofcom’s statement on T-Mobile’s fair usage policy change:
Communications providers must consider whether changes to conditions in their contracts will be of material detriment to their customers. If consumers are being notified of a change which is likely to cause them material detriment, the communications providers must, under General Condition 9.3, provide them with one month’s notice of the change and inform them that they are entitled to terminate their contract without penalty if the change is not acceptable to them.
We encourage unhappy consumers to speak with their provider about concerns that they may have. If the problem relates to a particular term or condition, then the consumer may log his complaint with Ofcom. Ofcom monitors complaints about the behaviour of communications providers and if there is a high volume of complaints about a particular issue, we investigate and take action as require, on the basis of administrative priority.
Join the debate on unlimited mobile phone tariffs over on Which? Conversation
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