The Austrian Telecommunications Control Commission (TKK) has ruled that the “Passt!” tariffs of T-Mobile Austria’s discount brand Tele.ring are noncompliant with the EU’s new roam-like-at-home (RLAH) regulation. TKK banned the surcharges for data roaming services that the tariffs imposed.
The decision applies to the Tele.ring tariffs “Passt! Pur Mini EU,” “Passt! Pur Maxi EU,” “Passt! Plus Mini EU” and “Passt! Plus Maxi EU,” which cost more than the same tariffs without the possibility of data roaming. Tele.ring’s practice violates the Roaming Regulation, which went into effect on 15 June. Based on the of TKK’s decision, current Tele.ring customers will no longer be obliged to pay an extra €3.00 (US $3.53) a month for data roaming, and they can claim restitution of such charges already paid. The regulator recommends that customers proactively approach Tele.ring about the matter.
The end of roaming surcharges in the EU, which just went into effect across the zone only a month and half ago, came about as the result of a very long and tortuous process of debate and legislation. Many observers may have assumed that when 15 June arrived, roaming surcharges would simply cease overnight. However, as this case illustrates, some operators are still charging extra for roaming services, and national regulators will have to be the first line of defense when it comes enforcement of the EU rule.
Those operators that do continue to contravene the rules may not have reacted quickly enough to the change and are still billing the old rates to customers who signed up before 15 June; others may be hoping to slip unlawful charges past customers, including new ones. In such instances, regulators must be vigilant and hold operators in their countries to the new roaming rules. In the Austrian case, while the TKK has done the right thing by calling Tele.ring to account, customers may be disappointed to hear even the suggestion that the responsibility for claiming back funds should fall to them.
In any case, operators large and small should be aware that in competitive, developed markets such as those of the EU, retaining consumer confidence and trust is key, and that failure to comply with rules that protect customers is one of the easiest ways to lose that trust and thereby squander competitive advantage.