Investigator: Global Roaming Confusion

Investigator: Global Roaming Confusion

The high cost of travelling when you need to be connected at all times...

PC & Tech Authority reader Lindsay wrote to Investigator late last year about a problem with his global roaming charges on his Optus business phone account. He crosses the Tasman quite a bit for work purposes and it’s proved to be costly on many occasions.

“I travel to New Zealand regularly for work and have been caught out previously with global roaming charges for data and the high cost of making and receiving phone calls. For one week I spent in NZ using my mobile for what I consider normal usage, the bill was over $900, reduced by Optus by 20% after I complained about the high cost.”

Lindsay realised, like many travellers, that there are alternatives and the best way to save on global roaming costs is to shop around and not rely on their local telco provider’s roaming services. Telstra, Optus and Vodafone all offer pre-paid data and phone plans, but even these are more expensive than what’s available with a roaming SIM.

“When I asked at one of the Optus retail outlets about how to avoid the high global roaming costs I was advised that it was never wise to

take an Optus SIM overseas and to always use a prepaid SIM whenever you travel.”

“I have subscribed for about 10 years and I read an article in your magazine recently about the Woolworths SIM and the greatly reduced rates that were charged for the same services offered by Optus. I signed up for the Woolworths service and it worked well in NZ. I ran out of credit at one stage and for one afternoon mid-week was not in a position to buy more credit so put the Optus SIM back in the phone in order that I would be contactable.

It was when he was back home that Lindsay found on his bill a charge from Optus of $598.80 that he didn’t think was accrued during the time he had the Optus SIM in his phone. He wasn’t sure, but suspected that the Optus SIM downloaded the same data that he had already accessed using the Woolworths SIM. He contacted Optus to get an explanation of the charges.

“Optus was unable to give me details of the data that was responsible for the cost over the phone.” 

Investigator followed up Lindsay’s email with the Optus media team to find out what data had attracted the $500 roaming charges and if the data had been downloaded twice, once with the Woolworths SIM and then again with the Optus SIM, as Lindsay assumed, or if it was extra usage and this hadn’t been clearly outlined when Lindsay spoke to customer service reps on the phone originally.

Optus got in touch with Lindsay and offered a substantial credit towards the global roaming charges and said that there had been confusion over the charges.

Phone and internet usage while overseas is a necessary part of travelling, and not just for business travellers, but it’s charged as an expensive privilege and the tales of woe from bill shock keep coming.

If you want to compare prices from the major telcos, use these links for Optus, Telstra and Vodafone, so at least you’ll know what you’re likely to be charged:

This year the industry regulator is set to release a new global roaming standard that requires telcos to give an SMS warning about global roaming costs, standard costs for calls and SMS and data in the country, and allows users to turn off roaming. This won’t reduce the costs that are charged by the telcos, though – that’s another matter entirely.

The government, through the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, won’t mention legislating to cap global roaming charges. Although Australia attended the recent UN International Telecommunications Union world conference, there were no international telecommunications regulations to reduce global roaming costs. Instead, there was agreement on more transparency in pricing in the new treaty, but this is not binding and countries regulate their own telecommunications laws.

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