Orange user loses battle over roaming bill

Roaming Rip-Offs: An Orange user who refused to pay an unexpected bill of £769 for using his 3G card abroad has lost his appeal to an adjudication panel

The Orange user at the centre of the controversy over the high cost of using the Internet on a mobile while abroad has lost his action to get his bill reduced.

CISAS, the Communications and Internet Adjudication Scheme, has rejected an appeal from British businessman Roger Steare who was contesting an unexpected bill of £769 for using his Orange 3G card in France and Germany.

Steare argued that while he expected to pay a higher rate when using his 3G card abroad than he would when he was in the UK, he thought the rate might be "as much as ten times" the UK rate. In fact, each megabyte of data cost close to 80 times as much.

In his evidence to CISAS, Steare said that it was unreasonable and unethical for Orange to continue to let him run up an extremely large bill when he had received no notification of what he was being charged.

In making his decision, the arbitrator said that "it is generally known that overseas usage is more expensive than UK usage and that costs of usage were available to be checked". Therefore the arbitrator found that "there was nothing improper in the actions by Orange".

According to the arbitrator, the responsibility lies entirely with the customers.

"By not checking, the customer runs the risk that the costs may be more expensive than they anticipated as opposed to what they actually [sic] and that they may be higher than in comparison to the costs charged by other providers," the judgement said.

Steare, though, argued that he had no reason to believe that Orange's charges would be as high as they were.

Steare also freely admits that he did get a verbal message via his phone about roaming charges when abroad but says that he believes it was read out to him when he made an earlier trip to the Channel Islands. "The disclaimer did not include any specific rate information," he told ZDNet UK, "it just said different rates are charged."

The adjudicator said that it was "unreasonable" for Steare, without knowing the rate he was being charged, to expect that it would be roughly in line with other charges. This was on the grounds that "the provider would have to anticipate in advance what the individual perception of a customer was which would vary according to knowledge experience and background".

CISAS was set up to resolve disputes of this kind under the auspices of the Institute of Arbitrators. Under the terms of arbitration, Orange had agreed to wait for adjudication before pursuing its action.

After going to arbitration, Steare has now paid the disputed bill. He has also cancelled his Orange data roaming contract.