3 UK Joins The We-Pay-You Brigade

Hutchison Whampoa’s 3 is no stranger to convoluted tariffs: its Italian arm offered to pay users 50 euros of prepay credit per month for 15 years — as long as they spend 20 euros per month on credit. Now, its UK unit is offering a plan similar to that of Australia’s Telstra that pays users to receive phone calls and text messages. For every minute of incoming calls, users get 5p credit, while they get 2p for every text they receive, with 3 paying essentially taking part of the interconnect fee they receive from other carriers and passing it on to consumers. 3 hasn’t yet put the fine print up on its site, beyond saying that the credits people earn are claimed only when they buy another top-up and are valid for just 30 days, but says users could make up to 40 pounds (about $70) per year from the program. That’s great, and for people that receive a lot of calls, it should be quite nice. But instead of creating all these confusing tariffs with quickly expiring prepaid credit, carriers could just make their existing tariffs cheaper, simpler and easier to understand — the tactic used to great success by many virtual operators.

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