13 December 2012
ACMA seeks comment on draft international mobile roaming standard
The ACMA today released for comment a draft International Mobile Roaming (IMR) Standard that aims to improve consumer understanding of unexpected high charges incurred when using their mobile phones and other devices overseas.
The proposed standard would require telecommunications companies to:
- warn consumers they are roaming; and
- provide country specific information the costs of calls and data use
when they switch on their mobile telephone overseas.
The draft Standard also proposes that telcos be required to give their customers:
- a low cost way to decline the use of mobile services while overseas and
- tools to monitor and manage usage while overseas.
These measures build on obligations in the Telecommunications Consumer Protection Code registered by the ACMA earlier this year.
‘These measures are all aimed at reducing "bill shock", where consumers who use a mobile device overseas can face unexpected high charges upon their return,’ said ACMA Chairman, Chris Chapman. ‘These charges can run into hundreds or thousands of dollars for only a limited period of overseas use, as costs accrue not only for calls and texts but, increasingly, high data usage as "ever on" smartphones become more prevalent.’
The ACMA is inviting the public and all interested parties to provide feedback on the draft standard. In particular, it is seeking information on any technical impediments to the standard and the likely cost to industry of making the proposed changes.
The standard is being developed following a Direction from the Minister of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy on 23 August 2012. The ACMA is not able to regulate roaming charges directly – the broader issues remain the subject of separate consideration by Government.
The Minister’s direction requires the ACMA to make the standard by May 2013.
Submissions are due by 25 January 2013.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Blake Murdoch, on (02) 9334 7817, 0434 567 391or email@example.com.
The issues associated with the costs of International Mobile Roaming (IMR) services have been examined across many international jurisdictions including within Australia. These include European roaming regulation, House of Representatives Inquiry into IMR, Trans-Tasman mobile roaming and the Asia-Pacific Telephony IMR Working Group Final Report.
As international travel becomes more accessible and mobile phone use increases (particularly for data), more consumers are at risk of receiving significantly larger bills than expected.
Mobile complaints to the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) about roaming charges have increased by more than 50 per cent in 2010–11 and nearly 70 per cent in 2011–12. Significantly, examination of complaints arising from international mobile roaming charges reveal that while complaint numbers are not high, the disputed amounts involved in each matter is significant to the individual consumers involved.
In August 2012 the Minister issued a direction to the ACMA to develop a standard that would require providers to give consumers easily understood information about IMR services once they are overseas. Specifically the Direction stated that the Standard require providers to–
- Give consumers, on arrival at overseas destinations, information about the roaming charges that will apply for services; and
- Enable consumers to decline the use of those services.
The Direction also suggested that the Standard also deal with any other matters relating to IMR services such as measures which would enable consumers to monitor and manage the cost and use of IMR services.
The requirements in the Standard will supplement the provisions of the newly registered Telecommunications Consumer Protections (TCP) Code that requires providers to supply point-of-sale and pre-departure information to consumers about IMR and to also provide this information on their websites.
The ACMA’s experience gained in guiding the development of the TCP Code has been beneficial in the development of this standard.
To gain further industry and consumer insight, the ACMA conducted a workshop with representatives from industry, the TIO, Communications Alliance (CA), the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN), in September 2012. The workshop gave an opportunity for each of the parties to provide feedback on what an IMR standard might contain and any impediments to implementing the minister’s direction. These discussions have informed the development of the draft standard.
Following consideration of the feedback received, the ACMA has drafted a standard with the following key features:
- It requires each wholesale CSP (the first provider) to give an SMS warning to all consumers on its network about the high costs of IMR services. The warning is to be sent each time a consumer first activates their mobile device in a different country.
- It requires each wholesale CSP to advise its reseller CSP (the second provider) within an hour of becoming aware that one of the second provider’s customers has activated their mobile device in a different country.
- It requires each CSP that becomes aware that a customer has activated a mobile device in a different country to send an SMS to that customer with information about the cost of calling, sending an SMS and using a megabyte of data in the relevant country.
- It requires each CSP to facilitate a low-cost method for its customers to decline the continued use of IMR services at any time.
- It contains an alternative arrangement whereby a reseller CSP that cannot meet its SMS information obligations, for reasons beyond its reasonable control, must provide a customer with specific cost information prior to activating IMR services.
- It requires each CSP supplying IMR services to provide customers with access to tools to monitor usage and expenditure while overseas.
Following receipt of comments through this consultation process, the ACMA will develop a final standard which will be in place by 23 May 2013.