Rating: Skype and 0870 iphone apps to the rescue
Thanks to Acision for pointing this out, but the test of recent EU legislation on roaming charges will come when Brits stranded abroad check their mobile phone bills on their return. After being left high and dry by the volcanic ash cloud, of course.
Acision has estimated that some 500,000 Brits were stranded abroad during the disruption. Still, it will probably be a few weeks before the full force of ‘bill shock’ comes home to roost.
According to Simon Dallyn, head of the mobile data charging with Acision, “The recent travel disruption will be a litmus test of whether the new EU legislation is actually benefiting the end-user.”
He points out that hundreds of thousands of Brits would have been using their mobile phones from abroad to contact their friends, family and work colleagues.
Plus many of them would have been browsing the web from their mobile phones in search of alternative means of travel.
Acision last reviewed the situation with roaming back in June 2009 and, “Since then, the EU has begun the rollout of a series of measures designed to reduce roaming charges.
The impact of this legislation on both consumer awareness (and their mobile phone bills) is as yet unproven,” Dallyn suggested.
He also questioned how effective the ‘cut-off limit’ facility – whereby operators are obliged to offer customers the option of cutting off their mobile phone connection once their bill reaches a specified limit – will have been in preventing stranded Britons running up enormous bills.
GoMo News spoke to one stranded Briton, Nick Spencer, md with leading high tech PR company, NSPR, who had found several effective ways of beating bill shock.
One of them was to installing Skype on his iPhone. As Nick pointed out, Wi-fi is free in virtually all of the hotels and local bars.
So he was able to make all the necessary calls to family, friends, work colleagues and even his dentist via Skype. He estimates his total Skype bill was below £20.
However, the real breakthrough for Nick Spencer came when he discovered another useful iPhone app from Simon Maddox simply called ’0870′. It’s on the iTunes App store or can be downloaded from http://www.simonmaddox.com/projects/0870 .
This app translates the extremely expensive premium rate numbers which are given out for customer care into a much more affordable number.
This worked in the case of BA’s helpdesk which translated from an 0870 number to this UK number – 01914907901. Just as well because Nick Spencer estimates he spent something like five hours on the line to BA.
GoMo News would be interested to know how prepaid phone users fared during the disruption since it is notoriously difficult to top up from abroad without an existing arrangement being in place.