5 October 2012: The Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) has claimed that consumers seeking to avoid mobile phone ‘bill shock’ related to global roaming fees are hampered by the high cost of unlocking mobile phone handsets.
Handset locking involves mobile providers locking handsets so they may only be used on the providers network. Customers must then pay a fee in order to unlock the handset so it can be used on other networks, including overseas networks. The practice is common in Australia and fees for unlocking can be quite high. The ACCAN has found that Telstra pre-paid customers currently pay up to $150, Optus pre-paid up to customers $120, Virgin at least $80 and Vodafone customers pay up to $100.
ACCAN spokesperson Elise Davidson has issued the following statement regarding handset unlocking fees:
“Our advice to consumers is not to roam on your normal plan while you’re overseas as the cost of doing so is just too expensive. Instead, you should either buy a cheap travel SIM card before you go or use a local SIM card in your destination country, but customers have to unlock their handsets first.”
“We think industry could help solve the problem of high global roaming bills by getting rid of handset unlocking fees, especially for pre-paid customers who have already paid for their handset. The industry has argued that consumer awareness is the key to reducing high roaming rates, but it’s been years and it’s not working. With each new wave of technology – such as data usage at present – consumers always learn the hard way. We’ve seen bills from anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $50,000 and many people just cannot afford to pay them. ”
Read more about handset unlocking fees from ACCAN here.