ACMA relaxes global roaming notification rules

Alex Kidman 6 May 2016

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The regulator has changed the rules about when and how your telco has to tell you about roaming charges. Here’s what you need to know.

The subject of global roaming charges is always a prickly one, because nobody particularly likes being charged more to use their mobile when they’re out of the country. Horror stories abound of travellers watching a few YouTube clips while on holidays only to return to hefty usage charges, with many consumers downright afraid to use mobiles overseas. Matters have improved in recent years with wider notifications and generally more affordable roaming arrangements such as Vodafone’s highly lauded $5/day Red Roaming making it easier to budget for overseas trips.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has this week amended its rules around how and when telcos are obliged to notify you of roaming charges. It’s done so by amending the Telecommunications (International Mobile Roaming) Industry Standard 2013 (the IMR Standard).

So what’s changed? In essence, the rules in the IMR Standard have been relaxed somewhat, especially when it comes to MVNOs. MVNOs were originally on track to deliver the IMR Standard to their customers (where global roaming was offered at all by that MVNO) by May 2016, or in other words right now, but they’ve now got until 1 January 2019 to fully implement them. This means if you’re an MVNO customer, your provider may wait a further two and a half years before being fully IMR Standard compliant. If you are a customer of the big three telcos, you can compare your roaming costs when travelling globally here.

The new standard also allows Telcos to offer IMR Standard compliant information in a single text message, rather than multiple texts. They’ll be able to offer the facility to customers not to receive usage warnings when overseas, although from a consumer viewpoint that would be a risky move to take even with roaming charges dropping over time. You can opt back into receiving notifications at any time under the new standard, and Telcos have to make that both practical to implement and offered at no cost to customers.

There’s also more room for telcos to offer alternative ways for customers to opt out of global roaming altogether. Telcos have to provide at least one method of opting out as per the new IMR Standard, although if a customer opts to inform the carrier by some other methodology, the telco is only permitted to charge a "nominal" fee for doing so.

Image: Shutterstock

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