New global roaming standards combat bill shock


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New global roaming standards combat bill shock

Under the new standard, mobile service providers in Australia will be required by law to notify their customers of higher rates for using mobile roaming services when overseas. In addition, service providers will also be required to provide customers with opt out options. The changes come in response to findings by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) that reveal many Australian travellers are often unaware of how international mobile roaming charges are calculatedi.

Bill shock for Australians travelling abroad is been targeted via the new International Mobile Roaming (IMR) standard.

From $35 conversations to $9,000 in phone billsii, mobile phones can transform from convenient devices to unexpected burdens once you touch down in another country. To make matters worse, most people are unaware that they are raking up these costs until they return home. In 2012, the Telecommunications Ombudsman received over 4,000 complaints concerning overseas roaming chargesii.

The new standard aims to target these concerns by making it compulsory for Australian mobile service providers to inform their customers of rate changes and provide options for disabling roaming services once they arrive overseas. The standard will require mobile service providers toi:

  1. Send an SMS notification to customers on their arrival overseas warning them that significantly higher charges for using roaming services may apply.
  2. Enable their customers to disable international roaming at a low cost, anywhere and at any time.
  3. Send an SMS notification to customers listing the different prices that apply for the roaming services available.
  4. Provide customers with ways to manage their mobile phone spending. This comes in the form of 'spend management tools' to help customers track their usage.

These new measures were phased in from 27 September 2013 and some will only be applicable to Telstra, Optus and Vodafone customers initiallyiii. The ACMA website has information on when these changes will be implemented and the service providers they will be applicable to.

The new IMR standard aims to help Australians manage their mobile usage overseas by ensuring mobile service providers inform customers about global roaming options.

Tips for keeping in touch while overseas

Outside of the new IMR standard, there are measures to help guard from the nasty shock of a steep phone bill. Here are a few wallet-friendly tips from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) on staying connected with family and friends while overseasiv.

  1. Buy a local SIM card when overseas
    This requires you to have an unlocked handset, but is a much cheaper option than using your Australian service provider.
  2. Buy a pre-paid roaming SIM card before departure
    This way, you've already paid for the service and you can rest easy knowing that the costs won't build up.
  3. Switch off data roaming services
    If you're truly itching to check your Facebook, Twitter, or other social media pages, then do it all in one go when you have access to free Wi-Fi in your hotel, or at any free Wi-Fi hotspot.
  4. Use Internet phone software when you're connected to free Wi-Fi to make international calls
    Part of the fun of travelling is sharing your experiences with your family and friends back home! Videophoning software like Skype and Facetime are convenient ways to keep your loved ones updated and are also great for letting them know that you're safe. When used with free Wi-Fi, it won't cost you a cent!

iAustralian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) 2013, New tools to combat overseas mobile bill shock, viewed on 12 August 2013,
http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/Newsroom/Newsroom/Media-releases/new-tools-to-avoid-overseas-mobile-bill-shock

iiOckenden, W. 2013, 'Federal Government tells telcos to alert customers of global roaming, data charges', ABC, viewed on 16 September 2013,
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-07-03/new-law-to-prevent-big-overseas-phone-bills/4797486

iiiAustralian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) 2013, International Mobile Roaming Standard Timeframes for Implementation, viewed 25 September 2013,
http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/international-mobile-roaming-standard-timeframes-for-implementation

ivCarroll, L. 2013, 'Vodafone to cap global roaming fees at $5 a day', Sydney Morning Herald, viewed on 12 August 2013,
http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/mobiles/vodafone-to-cap-global-roaming-fees-at-5-a-day-20130731-2qyke.html