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Transparency in mobile data roaming a must
|22 июля 2008|
London eForum discussion group highlights customer confusion when using data services abroad.
Trying to figure out what you will be paying for data roaming, even if you know what you will be charged per megabyte, is like "determining the meat content of British sausages: you just cannot determine it," said Ewan Sutherland, an independent telecoms consultant speaking at a Westminster eForum event in London on Monday.
And transparency, or the lack thereof, was a major concern for many of the speakers at the eForum session on data roaming.
"Users do not understand what it means when downloading data," agreed Fabio Colasanti, director general for information society and media at the European Commission, highlighting so-called "bill shock" as a major area of concern for the EC.
One such a bill totalling £31,500 was delivered to a U.K. consumer after data roaming in Portugal, explained Danielle Mestraud, a solicitor at Farleys Solicitors. This consumer usually has a bill of about £150 per month, she said
Mestraud said eventually the bill was settled for £229, after the operator looked at the cheapest roaming options that were available.
According to Mestraud, the main problem is a lack of transparency in the billing process, coupled with the inability of consumers to monitor their data usage.
She said service providers owe it to their customers to provide transparent bills, and that customers should at any time be able to see how much data they are using.
Robyn Durie, from T-Mobile's regulatory council, claimed that for T-Mobile customers, there is not a significant difference between data roaming prices and data prices in the U.K.
Data roaming is new, and the company first had to "get everything to work in the U.K. and elsewhere," she said. "Now we think we've got to a point of technical stability," which could now lead to reductions in prices, she added.
In mainland Europe, roaming costs take on an even greater significance, due to the proximity of country borders and the fact that people frequently travel over these borders, according to Nick White, executive vice president of the International Telecommunications Users Group (INTUG).
But while operators see data roaming as an attractive area to earn high margins, it becomes increasingly difficult for cross-border businesses to use these services, he said.
Telecommunication companies are effectively adding a tax to companies who operate internationally, he said.
According to White, who is calling for greater regulatory intervention in the data roaming space, the current structure is not leading to effective competition on an international level, and this situation does not look likely to change in the foreseeable future.
But it is not just data roaming that gives consumers a headache.
The biggest problem for consumers is that they do not understand how mobile billing in general works, both at home and abroad, claimed Steve Weller, head of communications services at online price comparison service uSwitch.
He said some travellers prefer to just send text messages, while many elect to keep their mobiles switched off, for fear of unexpectedly high bills.
Источник: Total Telecom