Thursday, 29 July 2010

GPRS users beware

I'm just sharing my plight here since Boo wrote about it in his column on July 26. This serves as a warning to unfortunate smart phone users who are not enrolled in an unlimited data plan. I am a heavy blackberry user for texts, emails, FB and twitter. I wrote this letter to Ms. Grace Plata of Smart on July 5:

I’ve been a loyal infinity client since 2008 and my average bill would be PhP 5-6,000 a month. Last year, I was traveling frequently twice to Europe and once to the United States and my bill would only cost P7-8,000 or at the most, P9,000 only with roaming, data charges and even voice calls.

I was upset last month when I received my phone bill amounting to PhP 27, 958.72 which is an increase by 386% from last month’s bill. 53% was data charges and 31% roaming charges. I was in Beijing for four (4) days and I assumed that the charges were becaue of China. However, I received this month’s bill and shocked that my bill is PhP 21,166.69. this time 78% was due to data charges amounting to PhP 16,493.61.

This is absolutely absurd since I haven’t changed my data activity and I wasn’t even abroad. My average data charges would only be PhP 4-5,000 monthly so this is a 286% hike from my regular usage.

There may either be something wrong with your system or my phone has been compromised. I would appreciate if you can reverse the data charges because I did not accumulate and rack up that amount. This is for BOTH last month’s bill of PhP 27,958.72 and also this month’s PhP 21,166.69. Otherwise, I would appreciate if you can terminate my account immediately.

I followed up twice through email and repeteadly sent follow-up texts to my assigned account officer Jeffrey. I guess it was only after meeting the Smart Public Affairs head on July 20 that my account was attended to because the next day, within 24 hours, I was informed that the data charges will be reversed.

I found out that the erroneous billing started when Smart issued a replacement unit for my broken unit (repair of my Storm's touchscreen). My colleague Carla also experienced erroneous data charges after her broken phone was replaced with a new unit, the Nokia E72.

The problem may be on the new smart phones. Tony A. whose staff racked in a total of PHp 125,000 worth of GPRS data says "The problem is that Blackberry’s are always attached to the network. Hence if you are connected using time based billing, you will definitely be charged such a huge sum. Blackberry devices should be billed separately – this is normally via the amount of packets the Blackberry device downloads."

What's the solution to this faulty GPRS charges? Unfortunately, unlike the iphones, I can't turn off the network on my blackberry unit. If I turn off the 3G or EDGE, I won't be able to send a text or even email. I can't even put a cap on my credit limit because Smart doesn't provide the courtesy of informing clients (mind you - I am an Infinity client) once they reach and/or exceed their credit limit. I'm now experimenting with Smart's unlimited data plan which is an additional P300 per week.

I am glad though that my GPRS problem is being resolved (and hopefully resolved soon). I found out that a certain Nikki G has yet to be attended to. She wrote : "When I got my bill for March, April, and May, my bill was at it's highest. In May it reached a total of P365,513.84. I asked Smart to provide me a copy of the breakdown of the data charges, but they never replied to my request. They only gave me a summary. Last week, I reviewed all my statements of account and saw that my bill did get higher and higher as the months went by. I exceeded my limit 7 times in 7 months. Not a single warning was received by me." Oh wow!