Why consumers are still confused about roaming costs… [Guest Post]

by Guest Contributor on 21st June 2010

We laugh at the stories – the huge roaming bills for the unwary, the unwitting and occasionally the clueless, but is this fair? Is it actually possible for consumers to easily understand what data usage will cost them overseas?

I was looking at the data tariffs each of the operators are charging (especially around roaming data) and this caught my eye..

Below is a screenshot taken from http://vodafone.co.uk detailing the roaming charges customers pay to use phones for data abroad. The prices reflect Vodafone’s prices ‘now’ and what we will pay ‘from June 15th’. Let’s not worry about the fact that June 15th has been and gone and the page hasn’t been updated – that’s a minor point and I assume someone is working on it.

If you click on “On your Phone” you will see these new prices:

Europe: £1 for each MB up to 5MB, then £5 for every 5MB after that

Rest of the world: £3 for each MB up to 5MB, then £15 for every 5MB after that

Vodafone helpfully offer to “let you know via text message when you get close to 25Mb limit or, from June 1st, they say they will text when you “approach the end” of that. Unfortunately they won’t tell you as you’re about to exceed the limit of data billed per megabyte, so in Europe 5Mb costs £5, but 5.5Mb costs £10… Ouch. Handy way to side-step that European roaming data pricing cap though isn’t it…?

Now let’s look at  Vodafone’s “Business” tariffs. Business tariffs are also changing, but in this case the new prices come in on 1st July.

Roaming charges for the US differ from those listed for 'Rest of the World'

Take, for example, the “rest of the world” pricing. Until July 1st, business customers will be charged:

up to £12.75 per day for 25Mb

From then on, the charge will be:

£3 per Mb up to 5Mb

…so £15 for 5Mb. But if you look in a different part of the site, this same roaming charge will cost you £4.99 per Mb.

I’ve travelled a fair bit recently and always taken both my personal and my corporate Vodafone phones with me. The price structure seems complicated, the tariffs are confusing and the information on Vodafone’s website is simply wrong. And as for “pay monthly customers must use the WAP APN”, try explaining that to your loved ones!

I wonder how much I’ll be charged next time I’m away.

Ilicco Elia is Head of Consumer Mobile for a multi-national media organisation, although the views expressed here are his own. He is a prolific early adopter of consumer and mobile technology and travels frequently exercising this equipment to its fullest. He is a frequent attendee at mobile industry events and co-creator of CozyTweetup.

Post editing: Ben Smith (so any typos or errors are his fault)
Ilicco image credit: Benjamin Ellis

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