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Charged 290 Euros in One Day for Roaming 3G! Opinion

Here's a cautionary tale for any smart phone owners travelling abroad using MTN as a provider, it's a true story and I am not the only one to whom it has happened.

I travelled to Jordan on the 7th of May for an exhibition, and my iPhone connected automatically with the Internet without my knowledge. Apparently it was connected all day via 3G (aka GPRS as I found out later.) After a long and busy day during which I barely looked at my phone, I suddenly got a text from 'INFO', saying that I had exceeded 20MBS limit. Since I had not authorised or bought these megabytes, I didn't think anything of it, and nor was the source of the message identified.

The next text said that MTN wanted a prepayment and that I should call a mobile number to find out more details. There was no answer from this mobile number. When I got back to Cyprus, I got another text, saying that my line would be blocked if I didn't give them a prepayment. At no time did they specify what the prepayment was for and how much it was.

So I called them, and was told that in ONE DAY, I got charged 290 euros for Internet usage! I immediately told them that I did not authorise or accept the charges and that I wanted to cancel my contract with them because I couldn't trust their service. They refused to allow me to cancel the contract without paying this outrageous amount for a service I didn't authorise or use. They then blocked my line, leaving me without a mobile telephone line.When they finally gave me a statement, there was a charge of 259.61 for GPRS Volume Charging. What is GPRS Volume Charging? I don't know, I never ordered it!

Today, 17.5.12, MTN told me that I would now have to pay nearly 400 euros for these roaming charges.

I have refused once again to do so.

This will most likely end up in court and I see it as a serious breach of my consumer rights that they did not cancel my contract on request, that they allowed the 3G charges to be incurred to such a high level, and that they did not properly inform me when I bought the phone (from them) about the possibilities of this happening.

Since this happened to me and I spoke to friends about the situation, others have told me that they received extremely high bills because their kids were unwary and did not realise how much 3G costs when they downloaded and played games on the Internet.

MTN would do well to read the following EU rules on roaming charges:

Thanks to the EU's roaming rules, travellers' data-roaming limit will be automatically set at €50 (unless they have chosen another limit – higher or lower. 

As of 1 July 2010, the Roaming Regulation foresees the following:

  • Operators will have to impose a monthly default cut-off for data roaming of €50. Consumers can also select a different cut-off limit if offered by the operator or opt out of this bill shock safeguard entirely.
  • Operators are obliged to send users a warning whey they reach 80% of their data-roaming bill limit. The operator will have to cut off the mobile internet connection once the limit has been reached, unless the customer has indicated they want to continue data roaming.

As of July 2011:

  • Prices for mobile roaming calls are reduced further with a maximum tariff of €0.35 per minute for calls made and €0.11 per minute for calls received.
  • The maximum wholesale prices for data roaming fall from €0.80 to €0.50 per MB.
  • Receiving a voice mail message while roaming will become free of charge.


What remains in force?

  • The price for sending a text message while roaming in the EU is still limited to a maximum of €0.11. Receiving an SMS in another EU country is free of charge.
  • For roamed calls, operators are obliged to use per second billing after the first 30 seconds for calls made and immediately for calls received.
  • Citizens should be kept adequately informed of the charges that apply for roaming services.

No, Jordan is NOT in the EU, but Cyprus is, and I expect my EU-based provider to protect me according to the first rule above: "Operators will have to impose a monthly default cut-off for data roaming of €50. Consumers can also select a different cut-off limit if offered by the operator or opt out of this bill shock safeguard entirely."

I write this article without prejudice and as a true personal experience which I can prove every step of the way. It is my opinion that consumers should be treated with respect and their complaints should be handled in a reasonable way.

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