Canadians not as smart as they think when it comes to roaming and data usage

MONTREAL – Think you’re tech savvy about roaming charges, data usage or online security? Maybe not.

Canadians are among the highest adopters of technology in the world, but 57 per cent of those surveyed failed a test for tech savviness, says wireless provider Rogers Communications Inc.

The Rogers’ survey found that 60 per cent of Canadians gave themselves a “B” or higher for tech savviness before they took the test. But only four per cent actually scored a “B” grade.

“So, what we’ve learned is there’s definitely a clear role for education,” said Amir Dewji, a performance coach at Rogers (TSX:RCI.B).

Despite the bad grades, the survey found that 87 per cent of Canadians wanted to improve their tech knowledge.

As for roaming, Canadians know that it means using another carrier’s mobile network, but almost half of those surveyed didn’t understand how it works.

“They understand the basics of roaming, i.e., if you travel,” Dewji said from Vancouver.

However, some consumers believe if they’re not talking on their cellphones, there shouldn’t be any roaming charges, which isn’t necessarily true, he said.

Roaming applies to voice calls, sending or receiving text messages, and using wireless Internet to go online, including browsing the web, or sending and receiving email, says Rogers’ Tech Essentials website, part of the company’s new program including the tech quiz to increase digital knowledge.

Wireless carriers notify customers, via text message, of international roaming rates on their cellphones and send notifications when consumers have hit certain megabyte limits for data usage.

But the Public Interest Advocacy Centre says trying to calculate megabytes of data used while outside Canada can leave consumers confused and with cellphone bill shock.

Wireless carriers have different practices to notify consumers, said Janet Lo, counsel for the Ottawa-based advocacy group.

“So if a carrier notifies you at 50 megabytes, but it’s $5 per megabyte, that means they’re not notifying you until you accumulated $250 worth of charges,” Lo said.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre’s own survey recently found that almost 90 per cent of consumers wanted their wireless carriers to halt their data use abroad when they’ve spent a maximum of $50 on international data roaming fees.

The Rogers’ survey also looked at Internet data usage, including how its measured, and found that 60 per cent of those polled were stumped, Dewji said.

For example, a typical five-minute song in MP3 format is about 3.5 megabytes in size.

An eight gigabyte MP3 player could store more than 2,000 songs, says Tech Essentials website, where the tech savvy quiz is available.

But on the positive side, a majority of Canadians knew that streaming 1,000 minutes of video on a mobile device means a “big bill,” Dewji said.

Online safety was another area of weakness with 64 per cent of those surveyed getting the questions wrong, such as the security of their devices on WiFi networks.

Canadians have cool, high-tech gadgets, like an iPhone or iPad, and believe they “all of sudden know everything,” which isn’t the case, Dewji said.

But the poll did find that Canadians knew that email attachments and content from the Internet can be infected with viruses or malware, he said.

The poll was conducted by Head Research between Nov. 26-28 with 1,001 randomly selected Canadians who have a cellphone, tablet digital cable, HD cable, landline and mobile or residential broadband.

The margin of error is considered plus or minus three per cent 19 out of 20 times.