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Is this the end of overseas mobile bill shock?

  • 26 September 2013
  • Written by 
  • Published in Mobility

ACMA has stepped in to prevent overseas mobile bill shock, with a number of compulsory measures coming into effect from tomorrow.

From tomorrow the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s International Mobile Roaming Standard takes effect, although the implementation of the standard’s various components is staged.

The watchdog said that from tomorrow, all Australians travelling overseas will receive an SMS alert advising them when they start roaming and a warning that significantly higher charges may apply.

Optus, Telstra and Vodafone customers will also receive SMS messages informing them of the costs of using roaming services in each country they visit.

Medium and smaller telcos are building systems to allow them to send these SMS messages. In the meantime, customers of these telcos will receive information about roaming prices and an ACMA fact sheet on alternatives, when they first ask for access to roaming.

The move follows decisions from Optus, Telstra and Vodafone to slash international roaming rates following a 70% rise in complaints to the Ombudsman about roaming charges.

"The increasing use of smart mobile devices has meant that people using mobile devices overseas without careful planning are at risk of bill shock, possibly running to tens of thousands of dollars," said ACMA Chairman Chris Chapman.

"These warnings are important because international roaming services are usually priced differently from services at home. The overseas charges for receiving calls and casual use of data—for activities like maps, social media, email, browsing and uploading photos—are often expensive. And these further charges vary between mobile plans and between countries."

"Optus, Telstra and Vodafone have all recently announced welcome changes to roaming charges,’ Mr Chapman added. ‘So, talk to your provider and about the options before you travel and tailor your approach to suit your particular circumstances."

The International Mobile Roaming (IMR) Standard was made by the ACMA in June 2013, and focused on four key consumer protection measures:

  • A notification via SMS to be sent to all consumers on arrival overseas, warning them that significantly higher charges for using roaming services may apply.
  • Enabling customers to stop international roaming, at low cost, at any time—including from an overseas location.
  • A notification to be sent via SMS to customers of service providers giving them pricing information for using a range of roaming services. These services include any that would normally be free in the domestic market, such as receiving a call on a mobile device.
  • Spend management tools, including notifications in A$100 increments for data usage and notifications at 50, 85 and 100 per cent of included value, if a customer has purchased an included value travel package from their IMR service provider.

The standard’s implementation timeframes are being phased in from tomorrow (27 September 2013).

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