Virgin Mobile accuses rival telcos of milking consumers amid confusion of the value of data

Screen Shot 2015-08-10 at 12.33.51 PMThe chief executive of Virgin Mobile has accused competitors of making “bucket loads” of money by “selling air” as he heralded the “customer first” strategy behind his firm’s data rollover offer.

David Scribner said it was “amazing” customers are forbidden from carrying over unused data, texts and calls and claimed consumer’s still have little idea of the value of data.

“What is a gig worth?”, he asked delegates at a conference. “Every time you download a movie how much data does it use on your plan? What about when you download a song? No one knows this and the industry for so long has used this. Why? Because it’s selling air.”

He said no one has any real idea of how much data they have used “which is really scary”, adding that less than 10 per cent of mobile users break their data each month but over 80 per cent break it sometime in six months.

Scribner, whose company introduced data rollover earlier in the year and launched a campaign to promote it last month, said there is one fundamental reason why Virgin Mobile remains the only company to allow its customers to carry over unused data.

“Having the rollover for us was a no brainer. We already offered voice and text and it made sense to do it with data. It was in our DNA,” he said. “You buy it every month and if you don’t use it it gets taken back by the telco? Are you kidding? That’s amazing.

“This continues to be an exclusive for Virgin Mobile and we have had so much positive feedback from our customers it’s incredible. Why haven’t [other telcos] done the same? Because they are making buckets of money out of people breaking it and not being able to roll it over.”

He said it highlighted the difference between a customer-centric business and one that was purely revenue and profit driven.

“When you’re talking about the customer at the centre of what you are doing it just makes sense to offer this. If you are looking at the share price or listing as an IPO and that’s what’s motivating you, there’s a fair chance you won’t bring this out because you will lose revenue in the short term,” he said.

“But you will gain so much customer satisfaction it’s ridiculous and that will make you stronger.”

Scribner, whose company is currently pitching its creative, public relations and social accounts, rejected the description of the data rollover offer as “disruptive”, arguing it was merely “customer first thinking and product differentiation.”

Scribner vowed to “disrupt the market” in the next quarter with the introduction of “some amazing stuff”.

Virgin Mobile’s competitors said data rollover does nothing to educate consumers on how much data they need.

Vodafone said it was “committed to helping customers combat bill shock” through the trial of “data workout” which helps them understand their data usage.

“It’s a unique trial which gives customers two months of unlimited data to work out how much data they need,” a spokeswoman said, adding that half a million customers signed up for the trial.

“This combined with automated coverage has contributed to a 49 per cent reduction in TIO (telecommunication industry ombudsman) complaints for excess data charges between July 2014 and January 2015.”

Steve Jones


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