Business Technology

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Thanks for the cash subsidies, gullible business mobile users

Another angle...

Published 17/03/2016 | 02:30

Irish business users pay the highest mobile phone bills in Europe, while non-business users pay the lowest. (Picture posed).
Irish business users pay the highest mobile phone bills in Europe, while non-business users pay the lowest. (Picture posed).

To Irish business mobile phone customers, who through artificially high bills are subsidising the rest of us, thank you.

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Thank you very, very much.

For a while, I was wondering how it was that mobile operators here could afford to keep investing hundreds of millions into new networks and licences.

Now I know. Because last week, Ireland's telecoms regulator confirmed that business mobile users are paying the highest monthly mobile bills in Europe.

And they're doing this while non-business Irish mobile users now pay the lowest monthly bills in Europe.

That's right. You, the gullible business user, are subsidising the rest of us.

Don't take my word for it. The latest figures from the telecoms regulator show that Irish businesses are paying a whopping 110pc more per month than UK businesses using (largely) the same mobile operators.

According to Comreg, the average mobile contract account taken by Irish business users costs €38.33 per month. This compares to €18.23 per month borne by UK business customers using the same networks.

It's not just British business mobile customers we're paying more than, either. According to Comreg, Irish business bills are now 33pc more expensive than the average European business mobile contract.

But in case you're tempted to shriek "rip off!", stay a while. This appears to be no stereotypical 'rip-off Ireland' tale.

The very same Comreg figures show that Ireland is now one of the cheapest places in Europe to run a personal mobile phone.

The watchdog's statistics show that an average prepaid account in Ireland now costs €7.86 per month, making us the least expensive country - a full 44pc cheaper than the European norm. Similarly, the average consumer postpaid contract with an Irish operator now stands at €15.93 per month, 31pc cheaper than the EU norm.

To recap: that's €15.93 for an 'ordinary' monthly mobile contract versus €38.33 for a 'business' one.

Does the 'business' customer get much more than the 'consumer'? On the face of it, not really: in Comreg's model, there were 200 more calls but 1GB less data (a full half of the average Irish person's data usage).

So why the huge disparity in price?

The answer is an uncomfortable one. It is the business billpayers' blithe attitude to giving away their money.

Yes, you are to blame. It's not the operator's fault.

If you're wondering whether this sounds perverse, ask yourself the following questions.

(i) Am I used to paying around €60, €70 or €80 a month for my "work mobile" bill?

(ii) Is "the main thing" that I get calls and texts with a "reasonable bit" of data "to cover email and a bit of browsing"?

(iii) Am I pretty sure that "they're all basically the same" when it comes to pricing and features, "sort of like electricity companies"?

If you answer 'yes' to two out of three of these questions, you're giving away your money to me and others like me.

You're like the person who will pay €1,500 for car insurance on a Nissan Micra with a 10-year no-claims bonus, purely because you've been paying that for the last 20 years. And it's never occurred to you to move.

You are what the operators are increasingly relying on to make money. In a phone market increasingly known for its fierce competition and falling prices, your company's cash is subsidising all of the punters who now get better deals than you for less money per month.

True, there are one or two possible qualifications to the EU-topping prices here. It's possible that Irish businesses may put more of a premium on free handsets than UK businesses (although this is not clear). Similarly, there may be some allowance for currency conversions (although not 110pc of a difference).

And it is also possible that, despite the increased competition in the Irish mobile landscape, that the great majority of Irish businesses (large and small) still opt for one of Vodafone or "O2" (now transferred to Three). Both of those companies have traditionally operated high cost legacy operations for business customers, with monthly tariffs of €90 or €100 not unusual.

So let us be very clear here: it is no longer correct to say that mobile operators here are fleecing you. You have very obvious competitive alternatives to the provider you're currently paying €65 per month to. You just can't be bothered to learn about them.

So on behalf of the non-business mobile users in Ireland, thank you once again.

And we'd appreciate it if you kindly don't cop on to your overcharged plight. Because frankly, we deserve your money more than you do.

Indo Business

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