The Bahrain Regulatory Authority (TRA) is investigating customers’ complaints on roaming billshock. TRA, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority has just started to investigate on 12 customers’ complaints related to billshock suffered by some Bahrain customers while roaming abroad: the bills amounted to around 30,000 Bahraini Dinars, equal to about 73,000 euros. The TRA’s Director of Consumer Affairs Sh. Abdulla bin Humood Al Khalifa said,
“During the first quarter of this year , not only did we notice an increase in the number of consumer complaints related to roaming cases, but also an increase in the amounts being billed to consumers as a result of using mobile roaming. One of the cases that is being currently investigated has a value of BD 12,800.”
meaning that a customer was charged with one single bill around 32,000 euros.
According to zawya.com, Sh. Abdulla also said that “During separate meetings late last year, TRA urged the three mobile telecommunications service providers to take voluntary actions regarding the roaming bill shocks such as establishing a maximum threshold to trigger warnings, and to adopt risk management measures such as suspending the mobile services when an agreed limit is reached.”
He further adds:
“It is completely unacceptable and unfair that consumers do not receive the adequate level of transparency regarding the cost and volume of their usage of mobile roaming services. We are putting all of our efforts to resolve those cases in hand and studying the implementation of additional regulatory measures to ensure that consumers are notified when they’re about to reach their limits to prevent them from incurring additional charges.”
The Gulf Insider Magazine published the following on the work of TRA earlier this year:
What are the prospects for Bahrain economy in 2015? What new initiatives have been planned for us? Here’s what’s coming up in the freshly started year 2015.
Technology and Operations
Quality of Service is a top priority for the Authority. We will revolutionize our Quality of Service tools by making them available on our website and through mobile apps in service of telecoms consumers in the kingdom, enabling them to supply us with vital data which compares the quality of telecoms operators’ various services. (NBN) National Broadband Network is essential to the country’s telecoms infrastructure growth. TRA will work as a mediator with Bahrain’s government, overseeing its deployment. NBN Will facilitate a singular, ultra-fast broadband network across the Kingdom, offering consumers highly advanced, cost effective ICT solutions and allowing operators to break new ground in telecoms service innovation.
2015 is Bahrain’s year for the next big move: The Internet of Things (IOT), A network of physical objects or “things” embedded with electronics, software, sensors and connectivity to enable it to achieve greater value and service by exchanging Big Data through Machine to Machine (M2M) Communications.
TRA’s ethos is to constantly adapt and improve its regulatory activity; thus we will review multiple regulatory tools such as regulations and policies in different areas of the telecoms industry in light of the wave of change seen in the internet realm.
In the coming years, TRA will put in place several policies and mechanisms addressing cyber security issues, including installation of an early warning and outreach mechanism for digital threats, and the development of a national telecom disaster response and recovery plan.
The consumer dispute regulation will be developed, and it will act as formwork of how TRA intends to deal with consumer complaints.
The new automated system for handling consumer complaints will have several communication channels, such as email, call centre, online portal, National Complaints System, and a mobile app.
The Authority will launch consumer awareness campaigns, which will cover general issues, such as TRA services, seasonal issues (for example roaming bills, a.k.a. bill shock, and bulk messages), and awareness on consumer rights. The new “open dialogue policy” will be implemented, which will involve the consumer advisory groups on issues that directly affect us, the consumers. Also, TRA will review the current consumer protection framework and will closely monitor the compliance of the operators.
The GCC Perspective
The Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (Arabic: مجلس التعاون لدول الخليج العربية), originally (and still colloquially) known as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC, مجلس التعاون الخليجي), is a regional intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of all Arab states of the Persian Gulf, except for Iraq. Its member states are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
The GCC is in consultation with the GSMA with proposals for Roaming Wholesale and Retail caps. A cool understanding is still being sought on these matters.
The EU Perspective
As is known, the European Roaming Regulation already provides for specific rules that aim at protecting consumers through more transparent behaviours and and through some safeguard measures.
Art. 1.3 of the 531/2012 European Roaming Regulation clearly states that
“This Regulation also lays down rules aimed at increasing price transparency and improving the provision of information on charges to users of roaming services.”
According to the European Regulation, HMNOs are obliged adopt the following transparency measures:
- When at home: by providing them with full information on applicable roaming charges
- While roaming: by sending their customers welcome SMS with roaming tariff information
- Financial/Volume data limits: by providing cut-off facility for data roaming usage (€50 excl. VAT) per month
- Alerts: when 80 % of such amount is reached, a warning notification to the customer has to be sent
- Temporary cut off: when 100 % of such amount is reached, a notification to the customer has to be sent and data roaming traffic must be stopped
Sources: The Gulf Insider, Gulf Daily News, Wikipedia, GCCm Bahrain Business News, Arabian Industry, Big News Network