TDR Case Note T010709 (2012)
Billing and fees - roaming charges
The Customer subscribed to mobile phone and data services from the Scheme Member (Provider). The Customer went on an overseas holiday on 31 December 2011, but did not contact the Provider about the roaming rates. On 2 January 2012, the Customer received a message from the Provider informing him that New Zealand rates did not apply. Two days later he received a second message informing him that he had higher than usual unbilled roaming charges. The Customer then contacted the Provider and was informed that data was being charged at $30 per MB. He did not use any data after that point. After returning to New Zealand, the Customer was charged $2,021.36 for data roaming costs, including $977.87 for charges incurred prior to the first warning message and charges of $1,043.49 ($30 per MB for 35 MB) incurred after the warning. The Customer lodged a complaint through TDR about unreasonable roaming charges, and stated that he would never have consented to the roaming charge of $30 per MB. He offered to pay $175 for the 35MB ($5 per MB) used after the first message.
The Provider responded that the Customer had every opportunity to find out about the cost of roaming, as the information was freely available. The Provider noted that it is a privately owned company and is not required to "justify" its pricing. The Provider also argued that, in any event, its pricing was beyond that scope of the TDR scheme. However, the Provider offered a goodwill credit of $977.87 to cover all the data roaming charges incurred on the Customer's account prior to the first warning text being received.
The Adjudicator found that there were two essential issues: the data roaming charges, and also Customer service and contractual issues with respect to bringing those charges.
With reference to clause 20.1(e) of the Customer Complaints Code (the Code), the Adjudicator found that TDR was not able to consider the issue of the charge which the Scheme Member chooses to set for any particular service (that is the cost per MB). The Adjudicator also noted that a significant portion of the charges were set by the international provider, who delivered the direct foreign service to the Customer.
Regarding Customer service and the contractual issues in bringing those roaming charges, the Provider accepted that it was late in sending the warning text message to the Customer. With reference to clause 7 of the Code, scheme members are required to treat Customers with respect and in a fair and courteous manner at all times, and to provide Customers with accurate and up-to-date information. The Adjudicator considered that the Provider did not provide its service in a manner consistent with these principles. However, the file material also showed that the Customer did not make any attempt to find out what the terms of the contract were. The degree of fault on the part of each of the parties was roughly the same, so the roaming charges should be shared equally. As the total cost was $2,021.36, the Adjudicator ruled that the Provider should credit half that amount $1,010.68) to the Customer, and the Customer should pay the Provider the other half.
The Adjudicator concluded that: (1) the complaint regarding the excessive roaming rates charged by the Provider was excluded from the scope of the TDR scheme; and (2) the degree of fault with respect to bringing the data roaming charge was roughly the same on the part of the parties, so the cost incurred by the Customer should be shared equally.