Mobile phone customers could be able to reclaim unexpected data roaming charges after one of the big network providers lost a court battle over data roaming.T-Mobile, which has now merged with Orange and rebranded to become Everything Everywhere, has been ordered to pay back over £500 of roaming charges racked up by lawyer Angela Walsh.
The litigation partner at City firm Abrahams Dresden had called T-Mobile to cancel her phone contract, but had been persuaded to stay with the company after an upgrade was agreed.
However, data roaming capability was never discussed by the salesperson on the call, and when Ms Walsh flew to Australia she did not know that her new phone was capable of downloading data while she was abroad.
When she returned she discovered that T-Mobile had disconnected her phone and charged her £533.11. Judge Monty Trent ruled that the conversation on the phone between Ms Walsh and T-Mobile had concluded the contract between them, and terms and conditions would have had to be agreed then.
A spokesman for T-Mobile said that the company would not be appealing and added that this was an “isolated case”.
“We respect the court’s decision. This was an isolated case and we will reimburse the customer’s charges,” a spokesman said. It is understood that the bulk of the case was about the way the contract was sold to Ms Walsh, rather than the charges themselves.
However, many holidaymakers and business travellers have been hit with unexpected roaming bills when they returned from their travels. Last summer the European Commission introduced caps on the charges, but these only apply within Europe. Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission said that data roaming charges were “rip offs”.
In Europe calls now cost a maximum of 29 cents a minute to make and 8 cents a minute to receive, with internet access costing 70 cents per MB. Theses charges will continue to fall down to 19 cents per minute for calls and 20 cents per MB for internet access by 2014. In addition, users will be allowed to choose a different operator for roaming which should bring about more competition.
Consumer protection will also be improved when leaving Europe as operators will have to send a warning when the bill for internet use approaches €50. However, there is no cap if you travel further than Europe.
Customers with lost or stolen phones have been hit with very high unexpected bills. The Telegraph reported on a honeymoon couple who faced a bill of £8,200 after their sim card was stolen without them realising. Although Vodafone wrote off half their bill as a goodwill gesture, they have to pay the rest.
While downloading one gigabyte on a smartphone in Britain can cost as little as £7.50 a month, the equivalent use abroad could cost several thousand pounds.
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