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Govt aims to end overseas bill shock

The government has introduced a new global roaming standard to avoid Australians encountering bill shock when they travel overseas -- but some telco customers will need to wait years before they receive all the benefits of the changes.

The new International Mobile Roaming Standard 2013 includes requirements for SMS alerts and opt out options.

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"Forewarned is certainly a major part of being forearmed," Chris Chapman, ACMA chairman, said in a statement.

"The standard extends the information which suppliers must make available to Australian consumers under the Telecommunications Consumer Protections Code. They will now receive similar information when they travel overseas and use roaming services."

The new standard means consumers will receive text messages about charges when Australians arrive at overseas airports, options to stop global roaming while overseas, an SMS with global roaming prices and spend management tools.

The standard will be phased in from 27 September for Telstra, Optus and Vodafone customers. However, consumers on reseller networks will need to wait until May 2016 for some services in the new standard, such as cost service SMS, spent alert SMS and spend management tools.

"Currently resellers of mobile services receive little detailed information when their customers roam overseas. The standard requires that the network operators build systems to provide better information of this nature to their reseller companies," an ACMA spokesperson said.

"The resellers will then have to build systems to send pricing and usage alerts to their roaming customers. The extra time resellers [have] will ensure this work can be planned and undertaken in a way that will minimise costs on these smaller companies."

There is nothing preventing resellers complying with the standard earlier than the 2016 deadline, the spokesperson said.

The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) welcomed the new standard but has called for more transparency from telcos on how they calculate their global roaming charges.

Asher Moses, spokesman for ACCAN, said the standard won't solve the problem of high global roaming prices.

ACCAN has also expressed concern about a lag of up to 48 hours for data usage alerts.

"When you think about the huge number of complaints that consumers have made about this you can only presume that the telcos are addicted to the massive profits derived from the global roaming rip-off," Moses said.

The Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) also welcomed the new standard.

"We are committed to working with the government on the implementation of the new IMR standard and our industry stresses the importance of its customers making arrangements for roaming a priority in their preparation before going overseas, just as they would check they have appropriate immigration, health and financial arrangements," Chris Althaus, CEO at AMTA, said.

The Australian and New Zealand governments recently announced they would team up to investigate the high cost of mobile roaming charges between the two countries to help bring prices down.

The Trans-Tasman Roaming report, prepared by the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy and New Zealand's Ministry of Business, Employment and Innovation, found wholesale margins were 300 per cent and retail margins are more than 90 per cent. This compared to typical margins of 10 to 20 per cent.

Follow Stephanie McDonald on Twitter: @stephmcdonald0

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU


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