Roaming Charges In EU Fall Again But Confusion Remains

mobile phone roaming charge europe SIM card © anaken2012 Shutterstock

The EC reduces roaming charges again, but many UK mobile users are unsure or unaware of the changes while some don’t know which countries are in the EU

Using your phone to make calls, send texts and use mobile data within the European Union (EU) has just become a lot cheaper, with charges falling by as much as half from today, ahead of the complete abolition of roaming fees in member states next year.

However research suggests that confusion remains among consumers about how the new regulations will impact them, with many unaware of how much it costs to use their phone outside the UK and which countries are members of the European Union – meaning the possibility of bill shock persists.

Reductions and impact

Mobile phone roaming Europe SIM cards © 136240814 ShutterstockFrom today, the cost of making a call within the EU has fallen by 21 percent from €0.24 (19p) to €0.19 (15p), while the cost of receiving a call has dropped by 28.5 percent to €0.05 (4p) a minute. Texts are now 25 percent cheaper at €0.06 (5p) per message while the cost of a megabyte of data has fallen dramatically by 55 percent from €0.45 (36p) to €0.20 (16p).

The European Commission (EC) claims that roaming in the EU in 2014 is now 25 times cheaper than what it was in 2010, but has reiterated its commitment to abolishing all charges as part of the plan for a single European telecoms market. Such measures have been approved by the European Parliament but must be implemented by member states.

“This huge drop in data roaming prices will make a big difference to all of us this summer. But it is not enough,” says Vice President of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes. “Why should we have roaming charges at all in a single market? By the end of this year I hope we see the complete end of roaming charges agreed – the Parliament has done their part, now it is up to Member States to seal the deal.”

Bill shock risk

Prior to today’s changes, roaming costs for calls and texts had fallen by 80 percent in the past six years, while the cost of mobile data had fallen by up to 19 percent, resulting in a 1,500 percent increase in use – a figure which is set to rise.

According to research from uSwitch, 58 percent of UK mobile users plan on taking their mobiles abroad this summer, with half needing their devices for calls, texts and the camera, with a quarter planning on using their smartphone for data.

However 25 percent of respondents claim to have run up larger than normal bills and 71 percent have never checked with their networks to see if they can get a roaming bundle. A third claim they have no idea what their operator charges for roaming and 18 percent don’t turn off data romaing on their handsets.

There’s also confusion about the new regulations. Nine percent believe romaing charges have already been scrapped within the EU and 13 percent believe worldwide charges will be abolished in 2015.

Which countries are in the EU?

vaso - Fotolia.comFurther problems are caused by the fact that some users don’t know which countries are in the EU. Two fifths think Switzerland is a member, 38 percent think Turkey is in it, 25 percent claim Iceland is represented in Brussels and 12 percent say Tunisia, in North Africa, is in the EU. This means visitors to some tourists destinations run the risk of unwittingly racking up huge bills – especially if they have removed the roaming caps imposed by their operator.

“Not knowing which countries are in the European Union could cause havoc for mobile users this summer as they could wrongly think they are protected from roaming charges in popular destinations like Turkey or Switzerland,” says Ernest Doku, technology expert at uSwitch. “Brits need to add ‘check roaming charges’ to their pre-holiday to do lists. Talking to your network before you jet off will very likely spare you a big bill later, as they may be able to advise a bundle, or at the very least let you how much it costs to use your phone abroad.”

Some operators have resisted the planned changes because of the revenues roaming brings, but the EU says a single telecoms market brings plenty of new business opportunities and has urged networks to take advantage rather than rely on outdated models.

Three has already abolished some charges in 16 countries with ‘Feel at Home’, which lets customers use their phone as though they are in the UK. Finland, France, Israel, Norway and Switzerland are the latest countries to be added to the service.

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