Operators still not protecting customers from bill shock

Mobile operators worldwide are still not doing enough to protect customers from bill shock, despite initiatives by trade association the GSMA and national regulators such as Ofcom in the UK and ACMA in Australia to promote transparency in roaming charges. The majority of mobile operators worldwide (62 per cent) have not yet implemented any form of bill-shock prevention, according to research conducted by cloud-based managed communication services provider Mach.

Furthermore, only 24 per cent of operators have a system deployed that can monitor subscriber data usage habits in real-time.

In June 2012, as part of the GSMA’s Data Roaming Transparency Initiative, 24 operator groups, including América Móvil, AT&T, Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom-Orange, Telefónica, Telenor and Vodafone voluntarily agreed to undertake a number of measures which will help mobile subscribers better understand their data roaming charges and more effectively manage their use of data services.

Each agreed that they would send text messages to remind customers of their data roaming tariffs when they arrive in another country and turn on their mobile device; implement a monthly data roaming spending limit to help consumers manage their roaming bill and send alerts when data usage approaches the limit; and temporarily suspend data service when usage exceeds the spending limit.

However, not all have successfully implemented such protocols. In the UK, T-Mobile – part of Everything Everywhere – lost a court case earlier this month after attempting to charge one customer data roaming fees totalling over £500. The customer, Angela Walsh, a litigation partner at law firm Abrahams Dresden, identified applications which connected and transferred data in the background, and claimed that she did not know her smartphone was capable of using data without her explicitly giving it permission to.

In the UK, Ofcom has mandated key protections including the requirement that operators send consumers a welcome message containing details of charges for roaming services as soon as they turn their phone on abroad, and a financial limit, with near limit alerts, on data roaming of €50.

“Ofcom is currently working with operators to ensure they understand their responsibilities under the roaming regulations and that they comply with its requirements,” a spokesperson told

The spokesperson added that T-Mobile now advises customers that their internet services will not work on their handset unless the consumer buys a booster package to prevent them “running up a large bill for internet usage by mistake”.

Last month, Australia’s ACMA also released draft proposal to manage bill shock issues when mobile phone users are roaming overseas. The proposed standard would require operators 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.

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