The European Parliament has set a date to end the punitive EU roaming charges, for June 30th 2017.
This will come as a welcome relief for travellers, who up until now have been paying premium rates to make, and receive, calls from back home. The ruling has been made after two years of tireless negotiations and backtracking as the European Union battled with EU states worried about the financial impact the move would have on their respective telecom industries.
Many of these arguments were made with regard to poorer European countries, who would be hit the hardest by the decision.
Proposals to stop roaming were first rumoured back in June. Former vice-president of the EU Commission, Viviane Reding, praised the ruling, saying that: “After 10 years of tireless fighting, roaming is over. A victory for consumers and a stepping stone towards a truly European digital single market.”
A set timescale is being put in place where networks need to implement a cap on roaming charges before the all out ban; this is set to begin on April 30th 2016. It means that networks cannot charge more than €0.05 per minute for calls, €0.02 for texts and €0.05 for data. This is already a substantial drop from what is currently in place; last year UK mobile phone calls made abroad collectively amounted to £573m.
For many regular travellers, however, the deadline still seems a long way off. Currently, UK networks offer a range of roaming packages, possibly the best of which is Three’s Feel At Home, which allows its customers to use their phone, web and text allowance in 19 countries without paying extra; the deal holds as long as they’re contacting UK numbers. So far it has saved £1.3bn in roaming charges and is currently used by over 2 million happier customers.
The effect that these new regulations will have on UK networks is yet to be seen; for many companies such as three the inclusion of no roaming charges in their options makes an appealing USP, allowing them stand out in a crowded market.
Critics there will always be and the fear that causes the tremble is that the proposal to scrap these highly lucrative roaming charges can only lead to one thing: an increase cost for domestic calls. After all, surely companies will have to try and make up for their losses?