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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 23, 2009 @ 10:50 am

    A-roaming we will go

    Ciara O'Brien

    Good news for travellers: roaming charges will be capped by the European Commission from July 1st.

    And it’s about time too. As anyone who has ever travelled overseas will know, a dodgy t shirt, a dose of sunburn and a straw donkey aren’t the only things you can bring home from holiday. There’s also the inevitable shock bill.

    You know the one – so expensive it should come in a gilt-edged envelope. It leaves you feeling vaguely hard done-by, even if you were expecting a considerable dent in your pocket.

    The most hair raising one I ever had was for a weekend in Italy where I communicated mostly by text message and hadn’t quite figured out how addictive it was checking email on my phone.

    Considering my entire bill for a month at the time was about €80, running up €60 worth of charges in three days for a few texts was a bit of a shock. There was a swift change of network after that.

    The new rules will not only limit the charge for incoming and outgoing calls, it will also limit the amount networks can charge for data roaming and sending text messages, with further price falls due by 2011.

    The cheaper charges have been broadly welcomed – even by one of the networks, Three Ireland.

    It’s about time the networks were forced into cheaper roaming charges. While moves have been made by some of our networks to cut out roaming charges between Ireland and the UK, and make using your phone abroad that bit cheaper, others still have a way to go.

    The European networks were given a chance to fix the situation themselves before the Commission stepped in. But price drops didn’t go far enough.

    It’s particularly irritating when you get charged a small fortune for using a sister network of your own operator, something that mobile firms have finally figured out.

    If we all stopped using our phones abroad – unrealistic for most people – the networks wouldn’t make half as much money. So it’s in their interests to encourage us to use our phones more by dropping the prices.

    Something to think about before the complaints about regulationin the sector begin.

    • petee says:

      yeah this is great news. i once spent €100 while in slovakia and the czech republic for 7 days.

    • An Fear Bolg says:

      While this may seem like a welcome development, I find they whole thing disgusting.

      Every few months for the past few years there has been a big news item on the European Parliament capping texting/roaming fees or something like that. Firstly, what about the free market and freedom to contract? It might not be a nice thing for consumers but, subject to compliance with existing law, a company is entitled to charge a different price from one country to the next and to set its own terms (e.g. roaming costs).

      In reality (and the same is true of the cross-border Tesco type price differentials) there may be structural issues behind the differing prices. Why don’t regualtors use existing laws (e.g. competition law) rather than going for populist “solutions” like this?

      The reality is that the European Union is struggling to make itself popular with the public. The Euro was a tangible benefit of the EU. Most laws passed are implemented locally and local governments take credit. The EP has used this fringe area of consumer interest as a massive PR campaign and the media has fallen for it.

    • Ciara says:

      While companies have the right to charge what they want, consumers also have the right not to be ripped off.

      I have a particular problem with companies that have subsidiaries all over the world, but insist on charging roaming fees as if they were completely separate entities.

      If one network can treat a customer from Ireland the same as one on their Italian network, why can’t they all?

    • An Fear Bolg says:


      You’re absolutely right by my point is that there is a big picture here.

      Why doesn’t the EP do this for prescription drugs in the EU? A more important issue, no? And one where huge price differentials exist, products sole by same companies, etc.

      Once again the populist EP picks around the edges to curry favour with young citizens, but fails to tackle the bigger problems that the dream of the single market has not yet addressed.

    • Daniel says:

      900% Euro Bonus for Mobile Operators
      It’s almost a year on now, and yet we are not to see providers pass on the savings they are making. I can’t say the shock has disappeared either.
      I travelled to London twice at the end of last year, for half a day in November and again in December for a pre-Christmas trip with my girlfriend. I use my new touch phone for browsing the web checking my e-mails and Google maps while abroad. What I believed to be low data usage, alas with less than 5 days usage in the UK, I now find I had accumulated 27mb of usage in this time. For the privilege of UN usable internet that wouldn’t even load a map of London, I received a bill of €300 for December and €150 for November. This broke down into €70 and €200 in charges in those months of which would an additional charge of 21.5% VAT to be added. For 5 days roaming with no downloads, I have been charged a total of €320 euro inc VAT, while it cost Meteor thanks to the new EU Charges a total of €27.
      A call to the Comreg to query how this could be possible for a mobile operator to charge to such excess left me with the good old Irish warm feeling.
      “Sir, we don’t have control over mobile retail charges. They can charge whatever they want.”