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Mobile phone roaming charges in Europe WILL END by Christmas 2015

James Temperton
3 Apr 2014
EU flag (Credit: Flickr user Rock Cohen)
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No more rip-off charges in the EU as European Parliament votes in favour of abolishing roaming

Outrageous roaming charges in the European Union will be abolished by the end of 2015 after the European Parliament voted in favour of a single telecoms market.

The European Commission said it expected a final agreement for the new regulations to be in place by the end of the year, with roaming in all EU countries ending in time for Christmas 2015. The new legislation will mean that there will be no extra charges for texts, calls and mobile internet in the EU's 28 member states.

Speaking after the resounding yes vote in the European Parliament, Neelie Kroes, the Commission's vice president said the EU was "getting rid of barriers to make life easier and less expensive".

“Nearly all of us depend on mobile and internet connections as part of our daily lives. We should know what we are buying, we should not be ripped-off, and we should have the opportunity to change our mind.

"Companies should have the chance to serve all of us, and this regulation makes it easier for them to do that. It’s win-win,” she said.

Mobile phone networks have furiously lobbied against the abolition of roaming charges. In March they warned that the legislation would cause the cost of domestic calls to rise. A coalition of 15 networks, including Three and Virgin Media said:

"Roaming might not be subject to surcharges anymore, but the overall level of tariffs would increase, and non-roaming customers might effectively foot the bill for roaming customers."

The European Telecommunications Network Operators' Association, which represents some of Europe's largest mobile phone operators, said that abolishing roaming would cost the industry €7bn in cash flow by 2020. The organisation said that ending roaming would deprive mobile phone operators of one of their most profitable sources of revenue.

Roaming charges in EU countries have been on a dramatic downwards curve. Since 2008 the cost of calls and text messages has dropped 80 per cent, while mobile data is now 91 per cent cheaper. Despite the lowering of roaming charges, more than a quarter of Europeans still switch of their phones completely when they visit other EU countries. A survey of 28,000 EU citizens revealed that a staggering 97 per cent of people avoid using services like Facebook on their phones altogether.

It currently costs around 20p per minute to call home from the EU, with texts 7p and a megabyte of data 37pn (all prices exclude VAT). From July 2014 these charges will come down to 16p, 5p and 17p respectively. Once new legislation is introduced in late 2015 it won't cost you anything extra to call, text or use mobile data when travelling in the EU.

Roaming fees outside the EU are likely to remain prohibitively expensive. A call home from the USA currently costs more than £1 per minute on most UK networks. Mobile data charges even higher with O2 charges £6 per MB for mobile data in the USA.

Some mobile networks have already taken action to ease painful roaming fees. Three has already done away with roaming in 11 countries, including Australia, Ireland and the USA.

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