Victory for consumers as roaming charges fall across EU
Roaming fees around the European Union are set to fall as new price caps take effect.
European Union (EU) price caps have now come into force that could cut data roaming fees in half.
Phone users travelling around the bloc often disable their mobile data to minimise costs, or even invest in a smaller, cheaper feature phone that they can take with them and only pay for what they use. But the European Commission is planning to eventually phase out the high costs associated with roaming.
The first staging post was a 1 July move to reduce the existing price cap for downloading data from 45 cents (36p) per megabyte to 20 cents, while the maximum fee for making calls has dropped from 24 to 19 cents.
It can now cost no more than 5 cents per minute to receive calls, as opposed to seven cents, and the price limit on texts has fallen from eight to six cents per message.
Many companies may charge less than this figure, but there have been concerns that companies might restructure their deals to recoup any lost income in other ways. What’s more international carriers like US-based Verizon and AT&T will still be able to set their own charges.
It’s a move that is designed to prevent phone users from coming back from their holidays to find huge bills waiting for them. Every year a flurry of media reports emerge about travellers who didn’t realise how much they were being charged and fell into the trap.
But the plans are also part of a broader project to open up telecommunications across the EU. Instead of having mobile contracts designed along national borders, it seeks to create a larger network that effectively covers all 28 of the EU’s member states.
After all, if people can move freely between countries, so should the phones on which many of them increasingly depend on.
Many carriers are already offering contracts that come without any roaming charges, but they tend to be used to poach customers from rivals with higher fees. In a Europe where they can’t charge anyone for the privilege of crossing borders, it will be interesting to see how they adapt.