Ofcom won't act over data roaming rates

Roaming Rip-Offs: Despite expressing concern last year, Ofcom says that it has no plans to introduce regulation into the market for data mobile roaming services

After voicing concern last year over the cost of data roaming abroad with a 3G card, telecommunications watchdog Ofcom has now said it has no plans to intervene to reduce these high costs because the market is in its infancy.

Instead the regulator says that while it intends to carry on working with European regulators on mobile roaming fees, it is not treating the issue as a high priority.

"We are not looking at data roaming at this time", a spokesman for Ofcom told ZDNet UK. "It is early days and it is only 2.5 percent of the market."

Back in November, Ofcom's position was slightly different. Reacting to concerns voiced by Norman Lamb MP on this issue, Ofcom said that it "shares some of the concerns highlighted" and that it saw the cost of 3G roaming "as an important issue".

The regulator now insists that it does not see a place for regulation in the issue of data roaming. "It is Ofcom's belief that it is not good to place regulation on a new market," the Ofcom spokesman said.

In other areas, Ofcom's advice has remained consistent. It says it will continue to "work closely with other regulators in Europe to make sure that consumers do get a good deal".

The Ofcom spokesman said that this is part of a two-pronged approach through which the work on regulation across Europe works hand in hand with providing better information for consumers.

As part of this, the the regulator plans to launch a Web site that will provide information for consumers on using their mobile phones while abroad. The spokesman would not say when the site would launch but suggested it might be in February or March and would be similar to the European Commission's published guidance on the issue.

He also confirmed that any guidance would be aimed at voice users only and that there are no plans at this stage to include advice on accessing data services abroad.

In November, ZDNet UK highlighted the case of British businessman Roger Steare who returned home from a trip to France and Germany and found himself faced with an unexpected bill for £769 for using his Orange 3G card to download less than 100MB of data.

He has since lost his case to get the bill reduced in arbitration.