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New standard aims to cut Aussie roaming bill shock

New mobile roaming standard targets "price gouging" for Australians travelling overseas.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has outed new draft standards for global roaming that would require telcos to better inform consumers about the costs associated with using their mobile while overseas.

The draft standard released yesterday would require mobile carriers to alert customers when they are roaming, and provide specific information about the costs of calls and data in that country. The telcos must also advise customers on how to reduce their mobile use and provide tools to keep tabs on how much they are spending.

An Australian travelling abroad would receive two text messages when they switch on their phone overseas. The first would be sent within ten minutes of switching the phone on as a warning that extra charges apply, and the second, sent within an hour, would detail those charges and advise the customer on how to switch off roaming.

Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said yesterday that the standard would bring more transparency.

"Australian consumers are being price gouged by telecommunications companies every time they want to make a mobile call, send a text, or go online, when overseas," Conroy said.

"These outrageous charges can result in someone returning home and finding that their mobile phone bill costs more than their holiday. It is unacceptable," he said. "The industry standard will be an important transparency measure. People will receive clear information about pricing, allowing them to better manage their spending and avoid bill shock."

The ACMA is calling for comment on the draft standard, and aims to finalise the standard by May 23, 2013, but the authority noted that it doesn't have the power to regulate global roaming directly, and said that the Australian government was still reviewing how it could regulate the roaming industry itself.

It comes as the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman's (TIO's) latest statistics showed a rise in the proportion of complaints relating to roaming bill shock for bills over the amount of AU$5,000. In one case, a woman returned from a European trip and faced a bill of AU$147,908.

Telecom New Zealand also made moves to cut roaming bill shock for its customers this week, introducing a flat daily rate for data usage for customers travelling to a number of different countries, including Australia.

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