Big bills and volcano shock

Big bills and volcano shock

Acision Simon Dallyn
Simon Dallyn

Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull volcano eruption was the first big-bill-maker of many more, according to Simon Dallyn, head of mobile data charging at Acision.

For those unlucky enough to be stranded abroad in the wake of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajoekull volcano eruption, the last thing on their mind as they struggled to make it home would have been how much their mobile phone bill was going to be.

Hotel costs, flight and taxi expenses, and the general inconvenience of being stuck away from home will have taken priority and with airline refunds now starting to make their way into passengers’ bank accounts, they may well be hoping they can put the whole experience behind them.

Big bills

However, for the estimated 500,000 Britons caught up in the travel chaos, the next phase of the ordeal will only now be coming to light, as they begin to receive their mobile phone bills. Many of the stranded will have relied on their mobile phone or smartphone while abroad to stay in touch with friends, family and the office, and the cost may well have been compounded by browsing the internet on their devices in search of alternative means of travel, or to access work-related emails and documents, or even finding games and entertainment to keep bored children occupied as they waited in airport departure lounges.

 

When you think of all the ways we use our phones in times of crisis such as the ash disruption, the likelihood of a significant number of customers experiencing ‘bill shock’ seems very high.

It will therefore be interesting to see how well the EU roaming legislation introduced last year will hold up in the wake of such an unprecedented litmus test. The first key stage of this legislation was rolled out in July 2009 and saw the implementation of caps on the cost of messaging, web browsing and making voice calls while within the EU zone, as well as the introduction of per second billing after the first 30 seconds of a voice call. A key function of these new rules was to ensure far greater transparency for mobile users on the actual costs of using their phones overseas.

 

Goal achieved?

However, it is yet to be seen whether the legislation has achieved this goal and mobile subscribers certainly have a long way to go in terms of getting to grips with roaming. Research conducted by Acision last year found a staggering lack of awareness of roaming charges, with nearly two thirds of consumers stating that they were completely unaware of the costs associated with using their mobile phone abroad.

While this gap in understanding may not have been completely breached just yet, this will also be the first real test of whether the caps placed on costs are having a positive impact on customers’ monthly mobile usage spend in practice. It will also highlight the difficulty of achieving full transparency when the current legislation is only applicable to calls and data usage within the EU, despite many passengers being stranded in far-flung places across the whole world.

 

Next phase

From July 2010, we are expecting to see the next phase of the legislation rolled out, where it will be mandatory to offer a spending limit and cut off functionality to subscribers. Even if the subscriber has not requested a specific limit, they will be assigned a default one of €50 per month when roaming. 

However, rather than simply being cut off when they hit their limit, they will get a warning message when they have reached 80% of the limit so they have the option to extend it before being cut off. No doubt those travellers returning to ‘bill shock’ will be among the first to sign up. But what the volcano disruption clearly shows the mobile industry is that the success of the legislation relies heavily on achieving a very fine balance between consumers’ increasing need to be always connected via their mobile device and their wish to stay in control of the amount they pay for this.

As a pioneer of mobile messaging, Acision’s real time mobile data solutions enables customers worldwide to drive new revenues with innovative services while controlling, optimising and monetising data traffic.

 
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