Optus has revamped its range of mobile phone plans in Australia by introducing the option to change plans on a monthly basis if you exceed your data or voice allowance.
Branded as "My Plan" and available from Monday 1 July, the new range of Optus plans will also quote voice inclusions by minutes rather than a traditional dollar value, but data allowances on the $50 and $60 plans have been reduced compared to the company's previous offerings.
Optus' managing director of the customer group, Vicky Brady, says the new My Plans were designed to address the issue of bill shock.
"We think the new plans go to the heart of addressing one of the biggest issues for customers here in Australia at the moment, and that is bill shock," said Brady.
"Customers want us to be honest and fair and they want to make sure there are no hidden costs and charges. Unfortunately as an industry we haven't been great on those two measures and we know that's not acceptable."
Under the new Optus My Plans $60 and above, any excess data usage charges are billed at $10 per gigabyte (GB) up to a maximum of 20GB. On the entry-level $50 My Plan, the data is billed at $5 per 500 megabyte (MB) and $10 per extra 1GB thereafter.
At the start of the following month, Optus will automatically revert the customer to their original plan level.
"You might use 1GB of data more, we will charge you $10 for that extra GB of data and we will move you up to that plan automatically," explained Brady.
"Next month, you go back down to your $60 plan. So, we move you up very simply, and give you a fair price at $10 per gigabyte compared to the excess charges in market today."
Despite the increased flexibility of excess data and voice charges, the new Optus plans have reduced initial data allowances.
The previous Optus $50 plan offered 1GB of data compared to the 500MB allowance on the new plan, while the previous $60 Optus plan offered 1.5GB of data compared to the 1GB limit of the new plan.
When questioned as to why data allowances on the new plans have been reduced, Brady said it was a "trade off" that Optus made.
"We found that customers were most concerned and wanted reassurance about excess data charges, so that's a trade off we made," she explained.
"From research, we've found customers have said 'I don't mind if the inclusion is a little lower at the start, but I don't want to be stung with hundreds of dollars' in charges."
"The change going on in our business is really a renewed focus on our customers and a big part of that has really been listening and understanding what is most important to them."
The lesser data inclusions on the new Optus plans have been branded as "disappointing" by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).
"We're encouraged by Optus leading the industry in ending high breakage fees and simplifying included value offerings," said ACCAN spokesperson Asher Moses. "Measuring included value by minutes is great for consumers as they can now get an idea of how many calls they can get from their monthly allowance without a confusing flagfall."
"However we're disappointed the new plans don't come with more included data given the booming rates of data consumption. Virgin Mobile, for instance, offers 3GB of data for around the same price as the Optus 1GB plans."
"Separately, Optus has also changed prices on its mobile broadband plans recently and reduced included data. According to ACMA, mobile data usage nearly doubled in 2011-12 and this trend is expected to continue."
In addition to the new Optus My Plans, the company will also launch a new range of SIM-only plans with similar flexibility. All plans include standard national SMS and MMS messages.
Optus has also unveiled a new logo and new typeface as part of a revamped "brand experience". The new branding focuses heavily on the company's 'yes' slogan and uses a more colourful style.