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Bill shock to end? March 16, 2010

Posted by Mark Hillary in IT Services.
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This month, new EU laws to protect users with roaming mobile devices came into effect. The aim of the new legislation is to prevent what the media has termed “bill shock” as many users of telephones or Internet dongles have found that roaming data charges can be extremely high – especially when compared to the charge (often in contract anyway) when used in the home market.

Look at the case of William Harrison, a student at Nottingham University who visited Paris last year to begin an internship. Mobile phone company Orange advised him to use a 3G dongle, but Harrison never counted on his first month of internet use costing £8,000.

Other examples recently documented in the Sunday papers include a £4,900 bill for downloading a copy of The Apprentice on the BBC iPlayer and a £31,500 Vodafone bill for similar TV downloads. Vodafone did slash that bill to a more manageable £229, but how can such huge bills be racked up in the first place?
It’s all about data use. A laptop or phone that is using broadband on a roaming package – rather than the locally agreed fixed monthly price – will rack up additional charges based on how many megabytes (mb) of data are downloaded. The March 2nd edition of Eastenders on the BBC can be downloaded in 319mb. At the Virgin mobile roaming rate of £5 per mb, that’s going to be a cool £1,595 on your phone bill, just for catching up on the latest happenings in Albert Square.

So will the new legislation work? It’s aimed at ensuring mobile operators cap roaming usage to no more than €50 per month, and they now have until July to implement the procedures. If every provider implements the new rules then it should prevent further “bill shock”, but what if one company doesn’t, or their systems fail to give warnings in time? Who’s liable for the bill then?
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