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Do you use SMART’s wireless broadband service?  At this day and age having internet on the go is a necessity for most people.  While most of us don’t need constant connection we often need to have access every now and then anywhere we are so these services riding on the 3G signals do help a lot—until billing becomes an issue.

Normally rates are P20/hour regardless of speed or download size.  Different companies implement this rate differently (e.g. SMART P10/30 minutes, GLOBE P5/15 minutes) and provide modest discounts for certain plans but that is the typical rate in the country.  Sounds simple but the actual system that bills customers is very faulty from a customer’s perspective and very profitable from SMART’s perspective (I don’t use other company’s wireless broadband because it’s practically useless in our area, Quezon City District 2, so I can’t make a comment on it).

Background

SMART was my preferred network way back 2001 (my first mobile phone) because of their coverage until the “missing load” issue came about which apparently still happens to this day (what IS the government doing about this?).  I switched to GLOBE a few years ago because, to put it bluntly, SMART stole P100 from my load.  Here’s the story:

I installed a software for my Series 60 phone (I forgot the name) but I didn’t know it would connect online during wee hours (once) to get updates without prompting (a mortal sin for a software).  Later that day I decided to get online using the same phone and lo and behold I found out that I immediately got insufficient balance.  Suddenly P100 was missing and so I immediately suspected that something about getting online was the root of the problem.

Checking out the logs I confirmed that that software did connect for a few seconds online, but the billing counter didn’t stop until I connected again that day and eventually ran out of credits.  I was actually charged for the times I didn’t use!  The few seconds my phone was online could be reasonably charged for 30 minutes or even an hour but for the rest it was’t, there’s no reason for me to be charged!

I went to SMART center at a nearby mall about the issue but they didn’t acknowledge the problem (because their system was faultless) and of course they pointed the finger at me (the consumer) implying that “it’s my fault” (for using their services).  I even asked the representative of what guarantees do I have in case I loaded my SIM with prepaid credits and went online that the billing counter won’t continue to bill me.  Naturally I didn’t get any so I just threw away that SMART SIM. I was so enraged then so immediately I switched to GLOBE (which until now has not taken any “accidental” charges from me).  That was the story of how I became a GLOBE subscriber, and that was the first offense.

Recently

Believe it or not my SMART SIM from way back 2001 is still active and in use (not by me of course).  I was using a different SMART SIM during the “first incident” and since then I only occasionally borrow it to get online (GLOBE’s services are great but to be realistic their 3G services in our area is a joke).  Today a new scenario occurred:

5:22PM : Went online
5:24PM : Checked balance: P141.50
6:19PM : Disconnected after 59:57.  Balance should be P121.50
6:30PM : Got online again.
7:00PM : Disconnected after 30:07.  Since you can’t out-SMART the system, charge would be a full hour, should have a balance of P101.50.
7:03PM : Checked balance.  At the very least balance should be P101.50.  Actual balance: P81.50.  Where did my P20 go?

I assume most of my readers can count. 5:22PM to 7:01PM is less than 2 hours and even if we assume it was billed 2 hours the actual cost would only be P40!  P141.50 – P40 = P101.50.  Correct?  How does SMART count?  Do they have a complex formula that their system uses that lead to P20 excess charging?

I didn’t bother asking SMART for this P20 excess charge.  I know that I’d just feel stupid afterwards because I, the user, would always have the fault versus their “flawless” system.  It’s probably just better to just go public with these so that people would be aware of SMART’s clever system and they may be able to avoid the issue.  Since SMART won’t admit to these problems it’s futile to waste your time, money, and effort to go to their centers.

To avoid the hassle, here are some suggestions:

  • If possible DON’T use it.  If you can live with Wi-Fi or other means stick to it.  You’d avoid the problem altogether.
  • Since a lot of us can’t do option 1, I suggest that whenever possible connect only once in a day.  As with my recent scenario, I connected twice so maybe the system charges you every time you reconnect.  Just cross your fingers and hope that you don’t get disconnected while using the system.
  • Tell everyone of the problem.  Since SMART won’t admit to the problem share your experiences and hopefully it would reach the regulators and hopefully they’d do something about it.  Each of us is a microscopic voice but when combined could make these companies listen to our dissatisfaction.

It’s very frustrating to know that you’re dependent on services you deem as necessity and you get very poor service topped with excess charges.  As far as I know there is still a government agency that should be regulating these.  This is how monopoly feels like and there’s nothing we can do about it since the regulators are not doing much to protect the interest of the consumers.  Perhaps if all those who encountered problems like these speak out we can be heard and reforms may be made to curb the monopolistic tendencies of these “clever” capitalists.

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