Tuesday, 14 August 2018 21:39

ACMA wants consumer feedback on international mobile roaming services issues Featured

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority is seeking public and industry input to its review of the International Mobile Roaming Standard that ensures mobile service providers give consumers information about costs for using their Australian mobile service overseas.

The ACMA issued a statement on Tuesday inviting community and stakeholder feedback and submissions on a number of issues including:

  •     The impact of environmental and market changes on the IMR Standard;
  •     The effectiveness of warning and usage notifications to consumers;
  •     How the consumer messages are sent; and
  •     The extension of full obligations to mobile resellers.

The authority will publish the comments and submissions at the conclusion of the consultation process, with feedback to be received by close of business on 11 September.

International mobile roaming services are activated when consumers use telephone or Internet services overseas via their Australian mobile service provider.

Under the IMR standard, consumers keep the same SIM card in their mobile device, and access to overseas mobile networks is available through agreements linking their Australian mobile service provider with overseas mobile network owners.

And the IMR Standard places obligations on providers of IMR services, which currently differ depending on whether the provider is a mobile network operator — Telstra, Optus and Vodafone — or a mobile virtual network operator, which utilises an MNO’s mobile network.

But, the ACMA says that since the introduction of the IMR Standard, there have been a number of changes in the market, “which may impact how consumers use mobile devices when travelling overseas”, including:

  • Specialised service offerings for consumers, such as international roaming supplements or packages;
  • Free public internet access has become more widely available overseas, which reduces the need for consumers to rely on IMR services; and
  • Alternatives to conventional messaging and voice services have emerged, providing potentially cheaper options for making voice calls and sending messages.

“The ACMA is keen to understand whether the IMR Standard has been, and remains, an efficient and effective safeguard,” the authority says.

It says it welcomes comment on any aspect of the IMR Standard and its operation, and is particularly interested in views on:

  • Whether environmental and market changes suggest that the IMR;
  • Standard should be changed;
  • The effectiveness of consumer notifications required under the Standard;
  • The mode of delivery for consumer notifications; and
  • The application of obligations in the IMR Standard to MVNOs.

Ahead of this latest roaming review the ACMA cautions that charges for IMR activities like voice calling, SMS, Internet browsing and video streaming can be much higher than charges for the same activities in Australia.

“The significant differences between the domestic charges and overseas charges can lead to ‘bill shock’, where customers receive unexpectedly high bills for IMR services,” the ACMA says, noting that the level of consumer complaints to the TIO about IMR charges fell significantly after the IMR Standard was introduced.

The ACMA also says that IMR-related complaints dropped by 35%, from 1926 in 2012–13 to 1253 in 2013–14 – while by 2015–16, IMR-related complaints had dropped again to 608.

And the ACMA is launching this latest review and seeking public feedback in light of the fact that while more recent TIO data indicates that IMR complaints have since risen, “the numbers remain low as a proportion of total complaints.”

“Currently, there appears to be little evidence of the consumer harms that the IMR Standard is designed to address,” the ACMA concludes.


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham - retired and is a "volunteer" writer for iTWire. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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