ACMA introduces standard to target roaming bill shock

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ACMA introduces standard to target roaming bill shock

Telcos to provide SMS alerts, spending tools.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) today introduced a new set of features aimed at preventing excessive roaming charges for overseas travellers, as part of a new standard.

To be phased in from September 27 this year, the finalised International Mobile Roaming Standard 2013 [PDF] makes it mandatory for telcos to warn customers via SMS text messages that they face significantly higher charges for overseas roaming.

Text messages with pricing information for the roaming services must also be sent to customers, and telcos should provide spend management tools with notifications in $100 increments for data usage.

Customers who have purchased roaming packages from telcos will also receive notfiications when they have used up 50 percent, 85 percent and all of the value of these, ACMA decreed.

It should also be possible to opt out of roaming altogether for a low cost at any given time, even when overseas.

Telstra, Optus and Vodafone are required to comply with the IMR Standard from September 27, but resellers will have until May 2016 to implement the ACMA mandated consumer protection measures.

According to ACMA, the IMR Standard 2013 is the result of the Reconnecting the Customer public inquiry, which the authority launched in April 2010. 

That inquiry received 135 submissions and five public hearings were held around Australia at which consumers, their representatives and the telco industry provided evidence on customer care.

Some of the key findings of the inquiry were that consumers were often poorly informed about charging arrangements and received contrary and inconsistent information about services.

The Australian and New Zealand governments are currently taking aim at excessive trans-Tasman roaming charges. Proposed measures include legislation to allow travellers to be local end users and not be billed according to steep roaming rates.

Unbundling of roaming services to allow customers to pick a different network while travelling, and wholesale and retail price caps are also proposed by the two governments.

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