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Roaming charges law passes through EU parliament, could affect domestic charges

Sam Loveridge

by

Data Roaming

The legislation concerning the abolishment of roaming charges is currently passing though the European Parliament.

According to proposals expected to be seen by the European Parliament on Tuesday, March 18, roaming charges for using your smartphone or tablet abroad could be abolished by December 2015.

This means you might not be hit by an extraordinary high mobile bill for checking your emails and posting holiday photographs when you’re abroad, if the legislation is approved by members of the European Parliament’s industry committee this week.

The legislation is due to be given the rubber stamp on April 3.

However, network operators have warned that your domestic phone bill could rise dramatically in order to cover the costs of abolishing roaming charges.

A coalition of networks representing the 45 million customers has outlined that the legislation is so badly designed it could cause domestic bills to rise dramatically. The coalition represents 15 network operators and virtual networks, including Three and Virgin Media for the UK.

“There is a risk that domestic tariffs for European consumers will increase,” according to the roaming coalition. “Roaming might not be subject to surcharges anymore, but the overall levels of tariffs would increase, and non-roaming customers might effectively foot the bill for roaming customers.”

It is believed that smaller operators could be charged a lot more than their customers are currently paying them, but larger networks like O2 or EE could create deals to limit the cost impact for consumers.

From July 2014, the wholesale roaming costs will be capped at 5 cents per megabit of data or per voice call made or 2 cents per text. This sounds like a very small price to pay, but currently British consumers pay a lot less.

“Effective wholesale regulation is key. Without it if customers from northern Europe go to southern Europe and use their smartphones they are going to incur very large wholesale charges, but the amount operators can recoup is going to be cut,” said Three’s regulatory affairs director John Blakemore. “That is unsustainable and at some point that could have an impact on the domestic prices operators have to charge their customers.”

The new legislation plans to give consumers “the confidence to stay connected when they travel in the Union without being subjected to additional charges over and above the tariffs which they pay in the Member State where their contract was concluded.”

Read more: Best mobile phones 2014

Via: Guardian

toboev

March 17, 2014, 2:23 pm

The network operators are talking rubbish. The trouble with roaming fees, and the reason operators love them, is that they are not subject to competitive pressure, since few of us select a mobile operator or tarif based largely on roaming fees. We choose our operator based on the cost (and quality) at home, and then pay roaming fees through inertia.

All the EU is effectively doing is to extend the definition of "home" to the entire EU, so that all our mobile usage falls under competitive pressure. The operators seem to be saying that what they lose in roaming fees they will be obliged to make up in other charges, but they overlook the fact that where market forces operate they can only charge what the market will bear, not whatever they like.

So I doubt they will be able to fulfil their dire threats - no wonder they are annoyed.

Jmac

March 17, 2014, 2:40 pm

Yep, the mobile operators are just getting antsy because they are about to lose their carte blanche to gouge roaming consumers. Realistically the effect of the current ludicrous roaming charges (which bear no commercial relationship to the actual underlying costs involved) is that businesses get stung for the roaming costs of business travellers, while most consumers just avoid using their mobiles abroad. Opening up a fair market for reasonably priced roaming would force prices down to a level where consumers would actually use the services.

GaryMG

March 17, 2014, 11:31 pm

Come on trusted reviews, don't just report what the operators tell you to write.

Gavin Martin

March 18, 2014, 10:09 am

I'm with Three (because i live in a broadband null-zone in London Zone 2 and wanted a 4G wifi hotspot with unlimited data)....I was in the USA for two weeks at the start of the year and used my phone the same as at home. Additional cost? £0.00. Three's "Feel At Home" lets you use your plan allowance in a number of selected countries, including the USA. Unlimited data plans capped at 25GB a month - which seems to cost £15,000 for the same amount on O2. (no, really....that's fifteen thousand pounds, for data usage).

If Three can start rolling it out as inclusive to price plans, why can't the rest of them? (and boo to them for not offering it everywhere but at least it's a start)
What are the true costs of roaming to the networks, and how do they justify charging so much?

toboev

March 18, 2014, 11:12 am

I seem to remember banks and the like coming under the cosh over making up charges for sending out letters, bouncing cheques and the like. They were asked to prove that it really did cost £40 (or whatever) to send a standard letter, or else be limited to charging the actual cost, like 50p.
The Telcos should be subject to the same regulation - let them demonstrate that it cost £15,000 for international data (and not through some merry-go-round of mutual charges within the cartel).

Gavin Martin

March 18, 2014, 11:19 am

I think it's utterly bonkers. If Three - a relatively small player compared to VF, EE, and O2 - can offer me 2000 minutes, 5000 texts and 25GB data overseas for £25 a month and no roaming charge on top, how can O2 justify an equivalent rate of £15,000 for the same volume of data? It all goes through the same servers, I realise there is finite bandwidth but really, does it cost that much? It's all numbers flowing down wires, not a tangible resource like oil or gas. Sure there are infrastructure costs but I'm sure they are more than covering their costs without gouging to such an obscene level. Any business needs to make a profit and I'm happy to pay for a good service, but there's such a thing as taking the p*ss.

Must admit though it's this sort of thing which keeps me on a 30 day rolling tariff - I can pick and choose what network I'm on and what I pay without being tied into a poor value contract.

MadJoe

March 19, 2014, 12:12 pm

Bandwidth is only finite at the moment you are using it, it's not like you use 2GB today and tomorrow, all of the sudden, there's 2GB of bandwidth missing from some mysterious bucket of bandwidth. The moment you stop using it, it is returned to the pool of available bandwidth. This monthly allowance bs by the carriers is idiotic.

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