£100 for an iTunes download: The real cost of roaming

£100 for an iTunes download: The real cost of roaming

Summary: Roaming Rip-Offs: Mobile phone operators are stinging GPRS and 3G users with roaming charges of up to £20 a megabyte. That works out at up to £100 for a single iTunes download, and up to £5 just to check your tariff

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TOPICS: Mobility
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An investigation by ZDNet UK has exposed the massive charges levied by mobile phone operators on users who download data when abroad.

Data services are increasingly being promoted by mobile phone operators; they let users connect to their corporate email and browse the Web even when they're away from a fixed Internet connection.

When used in the UK, these data services are usually covered by monthly subscriptions, but those who use data services on a pay-as-you-go basis can get a nasty surprise — and this can include contract customers when they travel abroad.

Charges of up to £20 per megabyte mean that it can cost 24p just to view Google's famously light front page over GPRS or 3G data services from abroad — and that is before users have even searched for the information they need and incurred a series of much higher charges as they navigate through destination pages.

A download of a single iTunes track could cost up to £100. One ZDNet UK reader found himself lumped with a bill for £769 for using Orange's data services in France and Germany to download around 80MB. The same usage in the UK would have cost under £10.

[? /*CMS poll(20003887) */ ?]Although Orange is the worst offender, all mobile phone networks charge disproportionately high rates for roaming.

The problem is compounded in many cases by a lack of clear information from the operators. Some users who use 3G data cards in their notebook PCs are not provided with any form of metering to tell them how much the services are costing in real time. In these cases, users will not know what they are being charged until they receive their bill, which can easily be six or seven weeks later — more than enough time for them to have run up even higher charges.

ZDNet UK asked the operators whether they would warn a user if they suddenly incurred huge costs due to using data services abroad, but at the time of posting this story none had responded.

ZDNet UK's investigation also found that...

Topic: Mobility

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18 comments
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  • what do you expect from these rip off merchants - they are like banks, silent about charges until public uproar forces a change of policy and they wonder why 3g take up is slow!!
    anonymous
  • I love that the article contains the phrase 'Orange are the worst offenders' whilst the banner advert at the top of the page is for Orange's mobile office GPRS system and the inset advert is for an Orange mobile phone.

    Come on ZDNet, if you are going to trade on stories like this, then you should also rwstrict the content of your advertising too, you can't morally identify this type of problem and then let the offenders advertise on your site.
    anonymous
  • re the ads around the story - you've got it the wrong way round Tom, its a marketplace so anyone can buy the space

    is it not better that ZDNet accept this sort of advertisng even if its around critcal articles as opposed to brushing the opinions that dont suit their advertisers under the carpet?
    anonymous
  • I used Vodafone GPRS roaming in S Ireland. The service was awful with it disconnecting all the time. I ended up paying
    anonymous
  • My name is Roger Steare, the Orange customer "ripped-off" whilst using my 3G card in Europe. I'm a Business Ethics Consultant - I advise companies how to do the "right thing", not just what is profitable and legal. I invite all zdnet readers to visit www.orange.com and look up the company's Business Principles, Philosophy and Values. The challenge for Orange is to justify how thier data roaming charges meet these principles both in terms of being "open and honest" and in terms of providing customers with "value". Happy to correspond with any interested parties at roger.steare@rogersteare.com.
    anonymous
  • Roger Steare. Please make sure you have copies of all Orange's current pages from the Internet if you're going down the legal route, in case Orange changes the content. I applaud you for contesting their unreasonable practices. As an older person, I am very discouraged by modern business ethics and practices where nearly anything goes as long as it is not technically illegal.

    As an aside, I'm a council 'leaseholder' and have found my council, a Beacon Council,full of tricks to get more of the little money which I have. Value for money - NO WAY!
    anonymous
  • Vodafone now offer 250MB a month for
    anonymous
  • The charges within the UK are also high for GPRS usage.
    T-mobile do not include a GPRS allowance in basic contracts and for downloading some content over the course of a month (mostly music / website usage) i found myself lumbered with a
    anonymous
  • Well done for raising this issue. Even working for a leading mobile operator I have never understood the pricing of data services and was instrumental in attempting to lower charges to improve usage. This was met by stiff opposition and the rationale behind this was - we have spent a lot of money on infrastucture and we want to recover it in the short term at the expense of the customer and adoption. Ultimately this will push users to alternative wireless technologies. Let us look towards companies like Skype who's prices are transparent.
    anonymous
  • I was charged
    anonymous
  • Sorry I am using Firefox, the ads are not there, but let us face it, the mobile companies give away phones, "There is no such thing as a free lunch". read the small print.

    I do think, however, that come the revolution, they will be on the wall with the banks, lawyers and the politicians.
    anonymous
  • I was really pleased to see Orange identified as a roaming pirate. Some time ago they introduced a so-called 'flat rate' roaming charge for any calls made abroad. What that really meant was that they charged you close on
    anonymous
  • How appropriate!

    I was just googling for the results of Ofcom's last venture into this arena when I cam across your story.

    What sparked it for me was my latest (surprise, surprise!) Orange mobile bill after a recent weekend in France - 12Mb of data has just stung me for
    anonymous
  • Vodafone Pay as you go is epensive. I had bourt a mobile with Infa Red, so linked it up to my PC, and just loaded one Web Page, and it cost me 2.50. That was in the UK as well!
    Taken from there web site.
    WAP over GPRS:Vodafone live! pages 0.1p per KB / Non live! pages 0.73p per KB Text
    anonymous
  • Do you have any info on buying a datacard in spain please? I have one for UK but will not pay extortionate roaming charges.
    anonymous
  • I was stung for a bill of
    anonymous
  • Ive just got a

    having just returned from France I was shocked to recieve a phone for from Vodafone demanding a credit card number to cover my call charges of just over
    rover1974
  • rover1974: did you manage to have any success? We've just received a similar bill for £7000 - normal bill is £140!
    paul@...