Vodafone Romania roaming fine suspended by appeal court

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Vodafone Romania won a reprieve in a fight against a fine imposed by the National Authority for Management and Regulation in Communications of Romania (ANCOM) over an alleged failure to cap roaming rates.

The Bucharest Court of Appeal suspended the RON100,000 (€22,189/$24,171) ANCOM fine and a requirement for Vodafone Romania to refund subscriber charges exceeding €60 ($65). The financial penalties are on hold to give the Court time to investigate a request by the operator to overturn ANCOM’s decision that it breached European Union (EU) roaming regulations designed to prevent bill shock.

ANCOM issued the fine in early October after ruling that Vodafone Romania had breached an EU regulation limiting roaming fees to €50 per month, or a lower rate requested by subscribers.

In a statement announcing the move, the regulator explained that it acted after receiving a complaint that “Vodafone failed to apply and to make available at least one financial or maximum volume limit for data roaming services” to subscribers. Specifically, the operator failed to offer such caps to users of its Roaming Per Day tariff, which it has offered since July 2012, or to customers that have chosen tariffs with inclusive roaming benefits, which the regulator states Vodafone Romania has offered since early 2014.

The Court of Appeal also suspended requirements for Vodafone Romania to publish details on its website informing customers of the procedure for claiming refunds of roaming fees, and a requirement for the operator to inform customers personally of the options for receiving such reimbursements, Vodafone Romania explained in an emailed statement.

Vodafone Romania added that it won the suspensions after arguing that it did not breach the EU roaming rate regulations. As a result “the remedies imposed by ANCOM are not allowed by the regulations in force,” the operator stated.

The operator pledged to respect an obligation to inform consumers about “the data roaming consumption on alternative price plans”, and stated that it has always acted to prevent roaming bill shock in its current tariffs.

ANCOM responded by noting in a statement (in Romanian) that the court’s decision to suspend the financial penalties it imposed on Vodafone Romania means that the court has recognised that the operator acted illegally.

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