New roaming rules for Australian telcos

New roaming rules for Australian telcos

Summary: The ACMA has announced new rules to better inform Australians of the costs of using their mobile service while travelling overseas.


The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has set out new rules for Australian mobile companies, aimed at reducing bill shock for customers who use their mobile services while travelling overseas.

The new International Mobile Roaming (IMR) standard will come into effect from September 27, 2013, for Telstra, Optus, and Vodafone, and May 23, 2016, for resellers.

From those dates, the telcos will be required to send an SMS warning to customers when they arrive overseas, including pricing information, and allow customers to switch off roaming.

Then, from September 27, 2014, for Optus, Telstra, and Vodafone, and from May 23, 2015, for resellers, telcos will also be required to send alerts for every AU$100 spent, as well as the regular 50 percent, 85 percent, and 100 percent usage notifications.

The issue of high charges for using mobiles overseas remains one of the biggest challenges for the telecommunications industry, and can result in the average citizen, or even politician, owing the mobile providers thousands of dollars.

The Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) last year found that there had been a significant rise in the number of complaints to the TIO relating to global roaming bills over AU$5,000, with one consumer ending up with a bill of AU$75,000 after a nine-week holiday in Europe. The TIO estimated that in 15 months, it dealt with complaints from customers over roaming charges that added up to a total of AU$8 million.

The ACMA had been considering the standards since late last year, and while the authority doesn't have the power to regulate the roaming market, the government said at the time that it was looking into whether it could regulate the roaming industry.

The industry itself is starting to move on the issue, however, with Optus announcing in May that it had introduced a hard cap for customers who use their phone while roaming at AU$500. While Optus would not disconnect the service if the customer went over that amount while travelling overseas, Optus would not charge the customer any more money after that point.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has welcomed the ACMA's new standard, but has said that more needs to be done to reduce the cost of using mobile services while abroad.

"The standard will not solve the underlying problem, which is that global roaming charges are still way too high and do not come close to reflecting the true cost of providing the service," ACCAN spokesperson Asher Moses said.

"The excuse from providers that they are simply passing on the costs from international carriers is not convincing, as virtually zero transparency is provided as to how such exorbitant fees are derived."

Topics: Telcos, Government, Government AU, Australia


Armed with a degree in Computer Science and a Masters in Journalism, Josh keeps a close eye on the telecommunications industry, the National Broadband Network, and all the goings on in government IT.

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  • About time! but doesn't solve the real problem..

    Great article Josh. It's a move in the right direction, but does fail to do anything about the core problem of telco charging exorbitant amounts for mobile data that doesn't cost them that much to provision (ie 1000%+ markup).
    Trying to help solve the whole roaming rip-off was one of them main reasons I started my current company ( to bring a better option of getting local or roaming SIMs for customers...and we are soon to launch a couple of new products that will make that even better!
    Number one thing customers should do, is their own research, and alongside more transparency of the roaming rates (through legislation such as this), Telcos might see their rivers of golden roaming fees dry up sooner than they think!
    • Why not force the extortioner to justify their costs.

      It's a shame that the government did not enforce price transparency on the telcos. Let the telcos charge what they like but force them to publicly reveal the costs and mark-up they make. Basically they telcos need to be shamed into providing something close to reasonable prices.
  • I think it's great they have to alert and warn people

    but I find it a bit silly. as far as I knew everyone knows that you will be charged insane amounts of money overseas, and you should buy a local SIM card so you don't get charged so much. Still, alerts won't hurt for the new naive people out there.
    • Sometimes buying a local data SIM is not possible for travellers

      In some countries such as Italy the restrictions placed on non-citizens to purchase a local data SIM means that it is almost impossible to use mobile data at local prices.