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BLOG: Does the global roaming crackdown go far enough?

Adam Turner (via SMH) | July 3, 2013
A crackdown on global roaming bill shock starts in September, but why are Aussies paying so much in the first place?

A crackdown on global roaming bill shock starts in September, but why are Aussies paying so much in the first place?

Australia's new International Mobile Roaming (IMR) standard comes into force on September 27, courtesy of the Australian Media and Communications Authority. Telstra, Optus and Vodafone will be obligated to send you a text message detailing the costs if you use your mobile phone overseas. The telcos also must make it easy for you to see how much you've spent, offering spend management tools similar to what you already get for domestic use. The three major telcos only have a few months to put this all in place, but smaller telcos and resellers have until 2016 to get their act together.

The new IMR standard is certainly a step in the right direction, but the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) points out that bill shock wouldn't be such an issue if the regulator actually cracked down on the ridiculous cost of global roaming calls and data. Research by KPMG analysed Australian mobile roaming margins and confirmed that charges were significantly above the cost of providing the service, according to ACCAN.

Australians pay some of the highest international data roaming charges in the world, according to a 2011 OECD report. A one megabyte data session costs us around $12, with only people from Japan ($12.50) and Chile ($15) paying more. At the other end of the scale you'd pay around $2 for the same megabyte of data if you were from Iceland, Sweden, Finland or Norway. Why do the telcos charge us so much more? Because they know they can get away with it.

The European Union has discussed scrapping the excess roaming charges altogether for member nations. New roaming price caps in the European Union will see call charges drop by at least 17 per cent per minute, while data costs will drop by 36 per cent.

Pressure is growing for similar deals in Australia, after disputes over global roaming fees more than doubled in 2011-12. More than 10 per cent of disputed bills were for more than $5000, according to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman. 

The Trans-Tasman roaming agreement between the Australian and New Zealand is certainly a step in the right direction, although unfortunately it hasn't make it before parliament and now goes on the backburner until after the next election. ACCAN wants to see similar bilateral agreements between Australia and other nations, but it's going to be a long road.

Have you been burned by horrendous global roaming charges? What are the best ways to avoid them?


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