Prepaid users are playing a losing war with telcos and maths, but Vodafone is looking to be nicer than others with a new policy.
There’s a bit of a myth in mobile phone payments, and it goes like this: you buy credit for your phone every month, and you recharge it every month, except you don’t because you buy it sooner, because there are more than 28 days in a month.
In fact, there are only 28 days in one month, and that’s only every three years, yet mobile telcos in Australia set the expiration date for prepaid charges to be 28 days after they were first setup.
That means when you get $40 of credit on a prepaid plan from Telstra, Optus, or pretty much anyone else, you don’t have the 30 days of April to get it all spent or the 31 days of May, but rather 28 days as it is.
We’ve heard an argument before that this stems from mathematics, because apparently 28 days is easier for a system to contend with, a logic that makes about as much sense as cheese being used as an acceptable form of sticky tape simply because sometimes it can be sticky if left out in the sun too long, and yet most telcos stick with the 28 day cycle, frustrating customers and forcing them to spend on an extra 13th month in the space of a year (because 12 times 28 = 336, and that still leaves you with 29 days, the equivalent of one week).
If you think the whole 13th month problem is silly, you’re not alone, and Vodafone appears to be one of the few telcos willing to do something about it, this week launching a 35 day prepaid expiry period.
“There’s no denying that 28 day plans have been a sore point in the industry, and we want to lead the industry forward to give consumers greater choice of expiry period,” said Ben McIntosh, Consumer Business Unit Director for Vodafone in Australia.
Under Vodafone, the initiative means that you’re technically recharging ten times a year rather than thirteen, and that should save a bit of money and some confusion, accounting for the differences in the amount of days per month simply by adding a few extra each month to account for all of them.
In theory, this will not only save money and time, but also stop a telco from finding a way to get an extra month out of you, which currently happens with telcos that have adopted the 28 day policy, which includes a good chunk of them.
“Many Prepaid consumers have said they find 28 day expiry periods unfair. Many people have asked why they should pay an extra month a year for their mobile phone service,” he said.
“By giving these new plans a 35 day expiry instead of a 28 day expiry, customers will have ample time to use their inclusions and will be recharging less frequently annually, saving them money.
One catch, however, and that comes from how much you spend, with Vodafone’s 35 day expiry policy only going into effect if you spend $40 or more on a prepaid plan.
If you spend on the $30, what you’ve paid for will only work for 28 days. It seems as though Vodafone can’t completely escape from the curse of the 13th month.