Cellphone contracts hide hidden costs

SMS senders don't know what they are paying for, says survey.

cell phone 88 (photo credit: )
cell phone 88
(photo credit: )
Sending text messages from cellphones has turned into the most popular method of communication after phone calls. But a majority of cellphone users, who sent more than 40 million text messages during Pessah, don't know how costly this service is, according to a new survey. The Israel Consumer Council commissioned the survey, which was conducted by the Geocartographia research institute. It indicated that 70.7 percent of cellphone users did not know that for a text message with more than 70 characters written in Hebrew, Russian or Arabic (or 160 characters in English) they are charged for more than the cost of one short message service (SMS) by cellphone companies; 61.9% of the respondents did not know that when sending a text message, every space and every symbol is counted as a character and calculated as normal letters. In addition, 40.5% of those surveyed said had they known that for a long text message they would be charged for more than the cost of one text message, they would have shortened the length of the message, while 56.6% said they would ask their children to limit the size of their text messages. Of those who were aware that for a long text message they were being charged for more than the cost of one text message, about 24.9% learned about the charge from friends, 9.7% received the information from the Internet, 27.5% from the display on the cellphone and 2.1% saw the charge on their bill. Only 9.5% said they had received the information about text charges from the sales person who sold them the cellphone. The survey was conducted this month among a sample of 500 cellphone users throughout the country. In response, Pelephone, which has about 2.4 million subscribers, said under the terms of its text messaging service, customers can send text messages with 126 characters at the cost of a single SMS. Asked about cellphone usage habits, more than 60% said they were sending two long text messages a week, 39.6% said text message usage was limited to their own usage and 54.3% said the text message device was used by their children. "The findings of the survey again show that when the consumer is given all relevant information about the full cost of a transaction, he can take rational and intelligent decisions, which often turn out to be more cost-effective," said attorney Ehud Peleg, director of the Israel Consumer Council. "Cellphone companies provide information about SMS text message charges as part of the contract with the customer. But due to the cumbersome format of the contract, customers are either not reading or they don't understand the information." Peleg urged the cellphone companies to adopt a the short and simplified contract that was recently presented by the Israel Consumer Council to avoid confusion among the public.