UK COMMUNICATIONS REGULATOR Ofcom is demanding that mobile operators sort out their habit of smacking their customers with large bills just because they use data and not just voice.
The demands follow calls from Europe to cut roaming fees, but are aimed more at local users. We've heard the horror stories for years. You watch a couple of episodes of Top Gear on a mobile connection and before you know it you are selling your blood to pay off your mobile phone bill.
That must come to an end, says Ofcom, and the watchdog has warned providers of mobile data contracts that if they don't sort things out it will force them to do so.
One way to stop the problem, and a fair one at that, would be to let consumers set a ceiling for their mobile data spending, and Ofcom is looking to encourage providers to enable this.
"Ofcom has written to the mobile providers calling on them to do more to develop and promote 'opt-in' measures, such as tariffs that allow consumers to set their own financial caps or receive alerts about usage. Ofcom's consumer guide sets out the financial caps and alerts (domestic and when roaming), and tools to monitor usage provided by each operator," said Ofcom.
"Ofcom will also carry out further consumer research and will consider whether financial caps and alerts that consumers would need to 'opt-out' of would be appropriate."
The regulator is also looking at what might happen if someone's phone is stolen. Then it said that criminals could run up bills that run into the thousands of pounds, adding that often the consumer is responsible for this cost, and suggesting that providers be more understanding.
"Ofcom now intends to work with providers to explore the feasibility of limiting the amount consumers would be liable for if their phone was stolen," it added. "Ofcom is also urging mobile providers to better advertise steps that consumers can take to protect themselves, such as locking their handsets."
It has also written to mobile providers with the request that they make their charges more transparent. A review into the causes of 'bill shock' has been published by Ofcom, along with a guide for consumers that want to stay out of the larger end of mobile phone charges. µ