Joanne was calculating her expenses for the month when her phone beeped with a notification. It read, “Your plan for phone number ********58 expires on 07-02-2021. RECHARGE NOW, to continue using our services.” She skimmed through the recharge plans and chose her usual 3 GB per day for three months package. She found this offer particularly profitable as she had to pay only less than twice the money required for a 1.5 GB pack. Extra benefits for less money! She smiled and patted herself for making a wise choice. But as she was about to pay, a random thought popped into her mind - Do I make use of all the data in the plan’s period? She recalled several days where she hardly used even half of the data, so where does the remainder go? Am I paying for a service I don’t use?

A recent study by uSwitch, a commodity price-comparison site, found that 143 million GB of data is left unused by consumers every month, showing that we are paying for data plans that are far too excessive for our needs. Most of us don’t check our data usage frequently, and a massive portion of consumers are unaware of the allowances provided (like the extra data provided for specific packages). To add to this, companies have also succeeded in spreading propaganda and making the customers think that they need more than what they are actually going to use. By overpaying for the data we don’t use, we are not only wasting money, but we might unintentionally be cancelling out the value of any perks or freebies bundled into the tariff as an ‘extra’.

(But is this really as good a deal as it seems?)

2Degrees, a New Zealand-based mobile company, released a video in which they explore the possibilities of where the unused data goes. Some of the interesting questions in the video are - Does it get sold on some shady black market? Does it decompose? Does it get smuggled out of the country?

Though the actual answer remains a mystery, one plausible explanation (and most painful to accept) is that the phone companies sell it to you all over again. Essentially, we get charged for the same commodity which we had already purchased. Awful, isn’t it? Sometimes, we allow ourselves to be taken in by promises that are less than they should be.

(A still from the video)

Appearances rule the world, and in a world where customers can easily fall prey to appealing offers, it’s better to do a bit of research before making a choice. A lot of ways are available now to analyze and monitor our mobile data usage. You could check out the data usage option in the settings of your phone. ‘My Data Manager’, ‘DataManPro’ and ‘Mobistats’ (the last one for iPhone) are a few of the apps which help us track the same. They provide easy access to your data history and some extra features like real-time reporting, setting up notifications for data use, etc. By analyzing the usage graph for a few months, you could quickly identify the type of package which best aligns with your needs and shift to a different plan when required. You can also set data usage warnings to ensure you’ll not go over your daily data limit.

Though we can’t avoid all the mobile data industry traps, we could save a fair amount of our money and data by following the above methods. With business taking up new devious forms, the day we will be charged for the exact amount of data we consume still lies far away.

To watch the video by 2Degree, check out:

Swathy Suresh