Determinations

TDR Case Note T011547 (2012)

Issue

Data roaming charges

Background

The Customer subscribed to mobile broadband services from the Scheme Member Provider (Provider).

During an overseas trip in June 2012, the Customer allowed his client to use his tablet device but expressly instructed him to connect via the local Wi-Fi network, and not to use the roaming mobile service. After three days the Customer received a phone call from the Provider informing him that he had incurred 350MB of data roaming charges at $10.00 per MB, amounting to $3,500. The Customer requested an immediate suspension of his account. Upon returning to New Zealand, he received an account from the Provider claiming that he had used more than 900MB and he was invoiced $10,000 for data roaming charges.

The Customer disputed the data roaming charges and complained that the Provider had not given him documentation confirming the data roaming charges there were "passed on" by the overseas network operator. The Customer noted that he had not allowed his client to use the data roaming service. He also considered that the Provider's Terms and Conditions did not override his rights under the law, particularly the Fair Trading Act (FTA). In addition, he complained that the Provider's data roaming charges were excessively high in comparison with local rates. He also complained about the different statements by the Provider regarding the total usage and total charges whilst he was overseas ($3,500) and when he returned to New Zealand ($10,000). The Customer requested a meeting with the Provider to negotiate a lesser 'fair compensation' amount for the data roaming charges.

The Provider responded that the Customer's complaint about his dissatisfaction with pricing was beyond the TDR's jurisdiction. The Provider noted that in 2011 (the previous year) the Customer had received a bill for his data roaming charges of $1,688 for using 168.8MB of data, which was credited in full by the Provider as a goodwill gesture at that time, and the Customer was fully aware about potential data roaming charges.

Adjudicator's decision

With reference to the Provider's Terms and Conditions, the Adjudicator found that the Customer agreed to be charged for data at the rate set by external carriers, that is the overseas supplier of the roaming service. The Adjudicator found that the Customer gave his tablet to his client to use and therefore authorised data usage.

With regard to the Customer's complaint about incorrect information about the total costs of the data roaming, the Adjudicator did not find any evidence that the Customer was told that his total charges would be limited to the amount due at the time of the call.

With reference to s 20(e) of the NZ Telecommunications Forum Customer Complaints Code (the Code), the Adjudicator considered that the Customer's complaint about the fees for the roaming data usage was outside the scope of the TDR's jurisdication.

Final outcome

The Adjudicator dismissed the Customer's complaints and concluded that, (1) the Customer was liable for the total amount of data roaming usage charged by the provider; and (2) the fee that the Provider charges in relation to the products and services it provides was not within the jurisdiction of the TDR service. There was therefore no remedies awarded.