ACMA Simplifies Its International Mobile Roaming Standard

The ACMA International Mobile Roaming Standard was originally introduced in June 2013 as a consumer protection measure, preventing global roamers from being hit by surprise charges. Now, in response to a shift in the technology and services by which global roaming is offered, and a government initiative to minimise red tape, ACMA has relaxed its standards.

Global roaming image via Shutterstock

What does this mean for those who make use of these kinds of services? Largely it’s a reduction in the number and kind of notifications that are sent to you when you’ve activated global roaming. For starters, here are the four original standards that have slowly been rolled out since September 2013:

•a notification via SMS to be sent to all consumers on arrival overseas, warning them that significantly higher charges for using roaming services may apply
•a notification sent via SMS to customers of service providers giving them pricing information for using a range of roaming services
•spend management tools, including notifications in AUS$100 increments for data usage and notifications at 50, 85 and 100 per cent of included value, if a customer has purchased an included value package from their IMR service provider
•enabling customers to stop international roaming, at low cost, at any time—including from an overseas location.

MVNOs, or mobile virtual network operators, (essentially any company aside from Telstra, Optus or Vodafone) were operating on a different timeline — though they were originally intended to roll out these standards from May 23 2016, MVNOs will no longer have to adopt the standards until January 1 2019. Here are the rest of the changes that have been made this week:

•let customers now have the choice to opt out of receiving roaming usage alerts
•allow telcos to provide mandatory on-arrival roaming information to travellers in a single SMS rather than in several
•give telcos more flexibility in the ways they offer customers the ability to decline mobile roaming services while travelling overseas, at no or low cost
•delay requirements that mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) provide charging and spend management information from 23 May 2016 until 1 January 2019.

The standard is due to be reviewed in its entirety by ACMA by June 2018.

With global roaming plans and packages getting cheaper, and TIO complaints about global roaming services dropping substantially in recent years, the changes are a way to both unburden telcos and prevent customers from getting a compulsory stream of sometimes superfluous alerts and warnings. Of course, seeing as roaming charges can still be quite a lot more than standard national plans, it always pays to watch your usage and read the details of your roaming plan carefully.

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