Vodacom has warned that BlackBerry customers can be billed for out of bundle data when using non-RIM applications. There will also be no warning that users are billed out of bundle.
Many BlackBerry users have been complaining about being billed unexpectedly for out of bundle data usage.
“Over the past few months I have noticed that my airtime disappears at an alarming rate without me using the phone. I am using a Blackberry with BIS…” said one MTN BlackBerry user on HelloPeter.
“I have a Blackberry Curve 8520. I am on pay as you go (MTN). I have BIS active and the settings in my browser are correct, but I keep on losing credit even when I am not on the internet. It’s usually not much (about 2 cents), but after awhile it gets a lot,” said another MTN subscriber on the BlackBerry forums.
“My partner’s BlackBerry is taking airtime off her phone even though BIS is on. Whether by the onboard browser or WhatsApp I don’t know, but data is apparently being used that is being paid for with airtime,” said a Vodacom BlackBerry user on the MyBroadband forums.
There have been similar complaints by international BlackBerry users, indicating that it is a BlackBerry problem rather than a network issue.
Problem not picked up
Alexandra Zagury, Managing Director for Research In Motion (RIM) South Africa and Southern Africa, told MyBroadband that she was not aware of any BlackBerry billing problems in South Africa.
MTN SA’s customer relations executive Eddie Moyce also said that they are not aware of any BlackBerry BIS billing issues.
It therefore seems that the out of bundle billing problem is a BlackBerry issue rather than an operator problem, and that Vodacom was the only operator to have picked up on the issue.
Curiously 8ta subscribers have reported that they have no such problem, and this may be related to 8ta providing users with 500MB of non-BIS data for YouTube streaming. The non-BIS app data charges may well come of this allowance, although it is actually meant as a YouTube only data package.
Vodacom said that in some instances customers can be billed for data charges incurred from non-RIM apps.
“Application developers decide how to configure their apps, as a result some applications may incur data charges because they make use of a billable internet connection rather than the BIS connection and this is included in the terms and conditions of the BIS service,” said a Vodacom spokesperson.
According to Vodacom, warning messages can only be implemented by the application developers and many well known applications such as WhatsApp and YouTube do provide a warning message to advise customers about data charges. However, some applications do not.
“With so many applications available and with new applications being developed daily, it’s not possible for mobile operators to individually confirm how each application operates. This situation is not unique to Vodacom – it is the same for all networks offering the same BIS proposition and not just in South Africa,” Vodacom pointed out.
The problem of being billed for services which should form part of the flat rated BlackBerry Internet Service (BIS) can be solved by RIM by changing their operating system.
If users are pro-actively warned by the operating system (rather than the application) that the data which they will use is not part of the BIS, it gives subscribers the power to decide whether or not to use the application.
As it currently stands, BlackBerry users are left in the dark as to whether they will be charged when using certain applications.
The fact that the applications can be downloaded and installed directly from websites (rather than the BlackBerry app store) further means that RIM has little control over their app environment. This substantiates the need for an OS change to warn people about non-BIS data usage.