The National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications of Romania (ANCOM) has sanctioned Vodafone Romania S.A. by contravention fine amounting to RON 100,000 for failure to apply the financial or data volume limit that should cap data roaming consumption to a default financial level of EUR 50/month (VAT excluded) or to another level chosen by the subscriber from the ones provided by the operator. Established by Regulation (EU) no. 531/2012, the maximum limit must be applied by the providers of data roaming services to all the users of such services, including the ones who have chosen packages/extra-options with included data roaming credit. The maximum limit has been established in order to protect the users from the bill shock that data roaming consumption may generate.
The control action conducted by ANCOM following a complaint received in 2016 revealed that Vodafone failed to apply and to make available at least one financial or maximum volume limit for data roaming services, for the following categories of subscribers:
· beneficiaries of the “Roaming per day” scheme (in countries where this scheme applies), an option introduced by Vodafone in its commercial offer starting from 1 July 2012;
· subscribers with a tariff plan that includes roaming benefits, as Vodafone has introduced such benefits in its commercial offer starting from 3 February 2014 and is making them available in certain options of tariff plans such as RED/SUPER RED etc.
Failure to apply the data roaming limit breaches the provisions of Regulation EU no. 531/2012 and is a contravention according to the Government Emergency Ordinance no. 111/2011. Consequently, ANCOM sanctioned Vodafone by a fine amounting to RON 100,000 and decided on a series of measures to remedy the situation.
Damage payments for the users
The operator must refund the two above-mentioned categories of subscribers, upon request, under the legal conditions, any amounts they paid above EUR 50/month (VAT not included) for the data roaming consumed starting from 1 July 2012. Former Vodafone subscribers are entitled to refunding, as well.
The operator must publish the corresponding refunding procedure on its website, in the Roaming section, and the two categories of affected subscribers must be individually informed on their possibility to receive the respective amounts, under the legal conditions.
Moreover, by 1 December 2016, at the latest, Vodafone has the obligation to make available for these categories of subscribers a service where information on the cumulated consumption expressed as a data volume or as an amount in the currency of the bill can be obtained, so that the application of the data limit could be guaranteed. As well, by this deadline, the operator cannot charge the two categories of subscribers any amounts exceeding EUR 50/month (VAT not included) for data roaming services.
Capping data roaming consumption
According to Regulation (EU) no. 531/2012, the users travelling abroad have the right to benefit from a default financial limit when using the data roaming service (including mobile internet), beyond which access to this service is automatically blocked, except for cases when a user explicitly gives his/her consent to continue using the services and to exceed the limit.For avoiding the bill shock generated by using data services abroad, where a user does not utterly choose another limit in the operators’ commercial offer or does not explicitly give up the default limit, the operators have the obligation to apply - ex officio - the default financial limit, i.e. EUR 50/month (VAT not included), or a limit expressed as a data volume corresponding to a maximum amount of EUR 50/month (VAT not included).
Moreover, the operators must warn the users, by means of SMS, e-mails or pop-up windows, when the registered consumption amounts to 80% of the maximum financial or data volume limit, and when the amount established as a limit has been consumed. The message announcing the consumption of the traffic amount within the limit must include information on the procedure to be followed in order to continue benefitting from data roaming services, as well as the additional costs per consumption unit. Where a user does not follow this procedure, the operator must interrupt the data roaming service.