Vodafone Qatar has announced the launch of Bill Manager, a product that guards its Red Postpaid customers against bill shock. Bill Manager automatically gives customers the benefits of the best local data or roaming products when they go out of bundle, without their having to activate those products in advance. For example, once customers who start roaming in one of the 78 countries included in Vodafone Passport Pack and their roaming data or voice usage reaches QAR 100 (US $27.45), which is the price of the Passport Pack, they will automatically receive 1 GB of data valid in 78 countries, 1 GB of additional data valid in the GCC countries and 100 roaming minutes valid for a week at no extra charge. If the customer consumes the data or minutes within a week, Bill Manager will give them the same benefits the moment their usage reaches another QAR 100, and so on.
As another example of local usage, if a customer consumes all of the local data allowance included in their plan and starts getting charged at the standard out of bundle rates then upon spending QAR 20, Bill Manager will automatically give customers 200 MB without additional charges which is equivalent to the benefit of a Smart Data Rate product. If the customer continues to consume local data and reaches QAR 60 (US $16.47) in charges, Bill Manager will automatically add a QAR 60 mobile internet pack, which gives the customer 1 GB data. Bill Manager continues tracking usage levels, giving benefits of 7 GB data when a customer reaches QAR 100, and so on for all mobile internet packs. Bill Manager will be available for free for new customers on Vodafone Red Plans and will be automatically added to existing Red customers from their next bill cycle. Bill Manager will also keep customers informed via SMS notifications about their savings. Customers can also check the My Vodafone app.
While roaming surcharges will no longer be a source of revenue for operators in the EU after mid-2017 (if everything goes as planned), operators in other markets will still be benefiting in the foreseeable future—in fact, they can expect growth in this area, because travelers increasingly expect to use the same data-hungry services they are accustomed to at home. To meet their needs, operators are offering more complex and focused roaming bundles. However, many users will not purchase roaming bundles in advance, nor will they have roaming as a permanent built-in part of their plans. As a result, they are liable to so-called bill shock.
Vodafone Qatar’s solution to this problem seems to us to be a good one, keeping postpaid subscribers from incurring ruinous charges while abroad (and thus preserving good will and loyalty) but also keeping them actively using the operator’s data services. This may lead them, in future, to subscribe to packages with richer and more expensive roaming benefits. However, the Bill Manager product may be so good that it could risk cannibalizing the operator’s Passport Pack and Smart Data Rate products.