Halloween is here, so it’s appropriate to shine a light on the ghouls, black cats and witches of the enterprise mobility world. Mobile attacks are obviously the most terrifying threat to enterprises, but what also instills fear in mobility managers everywhere is unexpected bill shock.

Like a nasty dream, extortionate bills come when businesses least expect them, they are hard to control, they cause panic, and they are keeping IT leaders up at night.

What is contributing to mobile bill nightmares?

Mobile carriers are largely seen as unhelpful in the battle against bill shock. Billing systems provided by carriers itemize calls and texts but leave users clueless as to what is actually chewing through their data allowances. In addition to this, carriers have been known to offer data roaming services that are difficult to activate and use when abroad.
One major UK carrier offering a roaming add-on came under criticism by users because the add-on was costing them more than sending the occasional text at an international rate. Users claimed they were unable to remove it after activating it, leaving them exposed to bill shock.
Carriers aren’t the only target for blame. OS features also impact data consumption. For example, Apple’s Wi-Fi Assist was blamed for a San Francisco teenager’s $2,000 bill. The feature which switches the phone to a 3G or 4G connection when Wi-Fi is patchy or drops out, was designed to ensure a seamless and fast internet connection. But it also means users could unknowingly stream a movie over cellular amounting to huge unexpected bills.
Our research shows the update from iOS 8 to iOS 9 led to an average increase in data consumption by 25%. It’s too early to tell the impact of iOS 10 on data consumption. But it’s worth noting that the update may change phone settings to a setup that uses more data than it did previously. The good news is, this is controllable by disabling Wi-Fi Assist and turning off cellular data for app updates and apps that are rarely used.

The spookiest, scariest bill shock stories from our customers

Not too long ago a London father was hit with a bill for £3,309 after letting his young son watch six episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants on his mobile phone. He exceeded the data allowance on his business plan by 5.4GB, and with no warning or alert from the carrier. He was then charged at a rate of 50p per megabyte, or £612 per gigabyte. The same thing is happening for businesses.

International relations

We’ve heard from a customer in Asia that traveling to Vietnam with roaming enabled has also lead to bill shock as their carriers refuse to cooperate with other international carriers.

Accidental tethering

We caught wind of a recruitment company that suffered a £20,000 bill shock incident in Dubai because an employee enabled tethering whilst at a tradeshow and then forgot about it. She continued to use Internet for most of the day but was being charged over £5 per Mb.
We’ve seen also a customer in the US incur a £15,000 bill, almost all of which could be attributed to a single user who had decided to tether his device for the whole month.
There’s also the market research company that had one of its employees use 50 per cent of company’s entire pool of data through unrestricted tethering. He’d just moved into a new house and didn’t have the Wi-Fi connected yet, so the whole family jumped on the tethering connection of his corporate device.
A large water company also suffered the consequences of accidental tethering when a £9,000 bill was incurred by one user in the UK. The employee exceeded data allowance through tethering while streaming sport.
Mobile bill shock

Roaming around the world

One of our customers in the pharmaceuticals industry experienced a bill shock incident where a US-based employee was traveling in Japan and incurred a $12,000 bill.
In Canada, where the cost of data is already higher than most countries, comes another tale. One of our customers operates in the gold mining industry, and had been burnt by bill shock with mobile charges reaching the tens of thousands.

“We were spending excessive amounts on roaming data while people were abroad. Checking email could’ve resulted in a $200 charge each day.” JT Pearson, Manager IT Client Services, Kinross Gold.

A law firm recently came to us after an employee used their device for a single day while in the Middle East for business and racked up £1,000 on roaming data charges. He claims it was corporate email.
The most frightening thing about this compilation of bill shock horror stories is it’s actually real. Enterprises are at risk of bill shock each and every day if they don’t take some action to control data consumption.
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