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Sunday, 4 August 2013

Costly mobile Net surfing overseas!

Data charges can go up to thousands of ringgit if phone usage not monitored

Be careful when surfing the Internet on your handphone while overseas — you may end up being asked to pay the price of a car.

PETALING JAYA: A mobile user was in the Middle East for 12 days and was slapped with a RM122,703 bill for data roaming. Another went on a four-day trip to Singapore and was charged RM23,000 for checking her e-mail during the trip.

Be careful with that smartphone. Surfing the Internet on your mobile phone while overseas can be very costly. If you are not careful, you could end up with data roaming charges exceeding the price of a car.

Even the big names are not spared. One “victim” of excessive roaming charges was Communi­cation and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, who received a bill shocker after a short trip to Indonesia.

“I only used data roaming for a few minutes towards the end of my stay but I was billed RM4,500 for it,” he told The Star.

According to the Communica­tions and Multimedia Consumer Forum of Malaysia (CFM), complaints against telcos increased in the last two years, with mobile data charges and data roaming being the main grouses.

How to save on your data

CFM said it received 1,191 cases on billing and charging last year. In the first half of this year, it received 1,018 complaints.
CFM director Ahmad Izham Khairuddin added: “The complaints used to be mostly about poor coverage, but they’ve changed since 2011.”

CFM was set up by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission in 2001.

In the case involving the complainant with the RM122,703 bill, CFM mediated and the consumer was given an 88% discount, with a 10% rebate and partial payment arrangements.

The complainant, however, has yet to accept the settlement.

In another case, Sara Kamal (not her real name), 45, complained that she was sent a bill for RM23,000 after using data roaming for four days while on a business trip to Singapore in 2011.

“I was shocked when I got the bill as I had only checked my e-mail during lunch and dinner while I was there. The telco said it was because my data roaming was on. Even though the bill was settled by my company, I felt really bad,” said the manager.

The National Consumer Com­plaints Centre (NCCC), too, has received many similar complaints.

“Since January, we’ve received about 300 complaints on telcos. Two main issues are consumers disagreeing with the amount charged and being charged for items they did not subscribe to,” said NCCC deputy director K. Ravin.

Ahmad Shabery cautioned telcos to be more responsible in their billing.

“It’s illogical that a phone bill should cost so much. Companies should be more responsible when charging.

“Perhaps they should emulate credit cards and put a cap on how much one can spend on roa­ming to avoid cases where people get charged tens of thousands of ringgit on their phone bills,” he said.

Expert: High price of data roaming 'very possible' 

Data charges mobile internet

PETALING JAYA: It is “very possible” for you to be charged tens of thousands of ringgit for data roaming, said an IT consultant who specialises in customer relationship management and billing systems for telcos.
“If you check your phone bill, you will see how much data actually cost (refer to actual bill cut-out).

“In this case, for example, you have actually incurred RM15,467.70 for 1,546,770KB (1.546GB), which amounts to 10 sen/KB (kilobyte), but this is waived because of your data plan. If you’re roaming, it will definitely be much more,” said the consultant, who declined to be named.

For example, Celcom charges RM12/MB in Singapore, RM18/MB in Australia and RM20/MB in Britain on a pay-per-use basis for data roaming (with their roaming partners).

Maxis charges RM30/MB worldwide and Digi RM38/MB. However, all telcos have data roaming plans which are more cost effective. Pricing information was obtained via the telcos’ customer carelines and websites.

“All these prices are fixed by the individual telcos based on their pri­cing strategy and arrangement with their roaming partners.

“They vary from country to country, so your roaming charge in Singapore may be different from that in the Philippines, or Britain, for example,” said the consultant.

For comparison, a single A4 Word document page takes up about 15KB, while a one-minute YouTube video clip takes up between 2MB and 3MB.

“Data roaming is expensive because you’re paying a premium for a value-added service to data roam in another country.

“It’s like having nasi lemak and teh tarik in England,” he said.

Chances are, you’ll have to pay a lot more there than back home.”

We have stringent billing process, say telcos 

PETALING JAYA: Telecommuni­cations companies say they adhere to a stringent billing process to ensure that customers receive accurate and timely bills.

Celcom Axiata Bhd in a statement said it believed that one reason for a spike in customers’ mobile spending was that many users were not “completely familiar with the features of their smartphones and the third-party apps they support”.

“Various apps, especially those for social media, GPS and messaging, rely on data connections and geo-location services that can constantly run in the background and drive up data charges for those on limited quotas.

“We encourage our customers to take some time to familiarise themselves with any new mobile device by reading the manual carefully and learning how to turn off unnecessary services,” the statement said.

When asked how it was possible for a mobile user to rack up a bill of tens of thousands of ringgit when data roaming, Maxis Bhd sales and service head Tan Lay Han said: “Maxis is committed to providing our travelling customers roaming experience via affordable data passes in over 60 destinations.

“However, not all countries fall under this arrangement. Hence, customers will be charged based on pay-per-use rates in countries that we do not have preferred data roa­ming agreements with. Therefore, customers roaming in these destinations are more likely to incur high data bills.”

A Digi spokesman said that when searching for a phone plan, consumers should make comparisons first, as “information is readily available online” for them.

“Consumers first need to understand their usage patterns, ie, how much they usually spend for voice calls and SMS versus surfing or using mobile apps, to find a plan that suits their needs,” he said via e-mail.

Should there be discrepancies in their bills, the telcos urge customers to contact them immediately for clarification.

By LISA GOH The Star/Asia News Network

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