Orange customer fights £800 roaming bill

Roaming Rip-Offs: A British businessman was surprised to be charged £769 for using a 3G/GPRS datacard in France and Germany

A British businessman who connected to the Internet with a 3G card while abroad was shocked by the massive bill he received after returning to the UK.

Using a 3G/GPRS card had cost him £769 for downloading data, at £8 a megabyte. The same amount of data would have cost him less than £10 to download in the UK.

"I was looking forward to using my Orange card while I was in France on holiday and Germany on business," the businessman, Roger Steare, told ZDNet UK. "I was prepared to pay a premium and thought it might be four or five times what I pay in the UK — that's a reasonable premium — I didn't expect it to be 100 times the rate."  

Steare said he was "shocked and outraged" that he received no notice about running up such a massive bill simply by using the Orange card abroad. After downloading the data towards the end of September, the first he knew about how much he was charged was when he received his bill in October. "It's frightening to think that I could have been charged even more and I wouldn't have known anything about it," he said. "At no time did they warn me what I would be charged. They say they post that on the Web site but it's not easy to find, even when you are told it is there."

Orange does post its charges for roaming on its Web site. The cost of roaming using a datacard is the largest charge by a factor of ten and is the second to last item on the third page of charges listed in the tariff section. Orange did not dispute that Steare received no other warning that he was running up a bill of hundreds of pounds, beyond the information displayed on its Web site.

Orange also publishes guides to using your phone abroad, which do not give any specific advice on the charges for using the Internet while roaming. 

"Orange is committed to providing clear and fair roaming pricing to its business customers wherever they travel," said a spokesman for Orange.

"Orange provide flexible zone-based tariffs offering you access across more than 60 countries so that you can control your international data costs. GPRS and 3G roaming is £8 per megabyte, charged in per kilobyte intervals, whatever zone you're working in," the spokesman added. 

Steare disputes the use of the word 'clear'. "When I called to complain about it, the girl I was talking to had to get her supervisor to find out what the roaming rate for data is. That's not exactly clear and transparent, is it?"

[? /*CMS poll(20003887) */ ?]Responding to Steare's letter of complaint, an executive assistant for Orange's executive vice-president, Bernard Gillebaert, wrote: "While I acknowledged your feelings regarding the charges for using GPRS whilst roaming... I believe that we are being open, honest and true with regard to this". Orange has offered to allow Steare to pay off the bill over 10 months at no interest but insists that the bill must be paid or "the standard collection activities will commence".

Steare says he has no intention of paying the bill and that it is now "a matter of principle" for him.

An investigation by ZDNet UK has uncovered that all the UK mobile operators levy massive charges on customers who download data abroad. Click here to read more.