Bill shock: the common, and not so common causes

Guest blog by Juliette Lee, Enterprise Director at Adam Phones

A commonly used term within telecommunications, bill shock relates to the negative reaction a customer experiences if their phone bill has large and unexpected charges, mostly caused by the inadvertent or unintentional use of mobile data services.

The most common cause of bill shock is using a handset abroad. Despite the recent abolishment of EU roaming charges, there is still the risk of massive bills. The new legislation has created a false confidence in users that it’s inexpensive to use a mobile phone abroad – and outside of Europe, this is rarely the case.

Roaming costs are further compounded by the adoption of increasingly powerful and data-hungry mobile devices, which provide end users with access to a wealth of content and services; and only serve to swell data usage and the risk of excessive costs. Whether abroad or at home, this remains one of the biggest issues.

So, while the new rules mean that mobile calls, texts or internet browsing whilst within the EU will now cost the same as in the UK, there are several clauses and situations that could still leave you at risk of hefty bills in 2018:

  • Exceeding data allowance: using a mobile device while roaming (whether domestically or internationally) without understanding the data charges involved – or without an appropriate data plan – can cause issues. For example, if you use your mobile as a satnav, to download large files or for streaming video — and exceed your UK data allowance — you could still find you’re hit with big costs.
  • Europe versus EU: if you fly to a country within Europe but outside of the EU, you may also be at risk of bill shock – depending on your tariff and the countries your provider has included within their specific roaming zones. And, of course, roaming costs remain high if you’re travelling outside of the continent entirely.
  • Airplane mode: most people have worked out that having a mobile on while flying isn’t going to cause the place to crash – however, if you don’t put your mobile on airplane mode during your flight you run the risk of connecting to the airline in-plane network; which, as you can imagine, have high costs attached to them. The same is true on cruise ships where the liner’s own maritime network can route calls and data.  In the case of airline and maritime networks, these can show on your mobile phone invoice as ‘AAT’ or ‘AMM’ for in-flight calls, and ‘SEA’ for maritime calls.
  • Excluded numbers: many users worry about using their devices while travelling abroad and using their data – but what about the numbers that are not provisioned in their tariffs? Lots of bundles fail to include access to conference bridge numbers or 0700 / 08xx / 0900 numbers. If you are using these often and don’t have the appropriate bundle, you could be hit by bill shock.
  • Flexible tariffing: similar to the above, bill shock isn’t necessarily about a one-off spike in usage. It can be the result of a provider’s limited flexibility to model a tariff around your usage and, crucially, adapt that tariff should your usage profile change.
  • Handset ownership: sometimes bill shock isn’t even related to the usage of a phone itself. For instance, customers may believe they own their mobile devices at the end of their existing agreements, only to discover they were provided on a leasing arrangement. Not only do they need to return the equipment upon termination, but they could face charges for any devices not returned.
  • Contractual entanglement: finally, as with all contracts, it’s important to fully understand the detail. A competitive tariff or heavily reduced call rates to specific destinations may appear attractive, but if you have an overall minimum spend commitment in your contract that doesn’t seem achievable or realistic for your usage levels, those reduced rates won’t necessarily account for bottom line savings.

The solution to avoiding bill shock is an intelligent tariff built around you and your organisation’s usage profile; accompanied by a host of monitoring and reporting solutions. If you work with a supplier that can analyse your historical usage and model a tariff to your patterns (and benchmark it ongoing), then you’ll be in a good position to mitigate bill shock.

At Adam Phones, our contracts are deliberately short, easy to read and don’t hold clients to a minimum spend or involve hidden clauses. We provide the highest levels of flexibility and make every effort to prevent entanglement.

For more information on how Adam Phones can help you with preventing bill shock and contractual entanglement, get in touch or visit

Posted on: 19th February 2018

Posted in: Legal pain points

Tagged with: , , , , , ,