Should roaming charges be banned?

With the mass of complaints from mobile phone users about the cost of mobile phone roaming charges when abroad, governments are sitting up and taking notice. The European Union, in particular, is planning to address this issue. European companies are falling behind their competitors in Asia and in the US, as the telecoms sector in Europe is fragmented. New strategy seeks to harmonise the telecoms sector, ban roaming charges, cut red tape for businesses and introduce new rights for users and service providers (such as O2, Three and MobiData).

The European Union has set out a Digital Agenda for Europe to try and bring together the telcommunications companies into a single market. Their Connected Continet package aims to rejuvenate the EU’s flagging telecoms sector by abolishing roaming charges and simplifying rules to promote investment in new high-speed networks to boost growth and create jobs. The commission believes that the EU is missing out on areas of growth due to the national boundaries affecting telecoms companies.

One of the key elements of this strategy is to bring about an end to roaming charges. Mobile phone users will then be able to use their phones for internet access, texting and calls for the same price they pay under their domestic contractual arrangements. The changes are planned to be implemented from July 2014.

With no roaming charges it is believed that foreign telecoms providers will be able to offer services to UK customers and vice versa. The increased competition should help to stabilise the sector and charges will be more definite for customers travelling throughout Europe. Under the plans, companies would be banned from charging for incoming calls from July 2014. and all other roaming charges would be scrapped by 2016.

As always, there are two sides to every story. For consumers the end of roaming charges sounds like a wonderful thing. However, the European Union is going to need the backing of all 28 member states before the bill can be passed. However, some members such as Britain argue that the existing rules should be used rather than bringing in further legislation. Britain argues the case for bringing unity to the different standards and frequencies used by networks around the continent. They would rather see a move to the reduction in roaming charges charged by foreign telecoms companies. Telecoms companies think likewise, saying that regulation of roaming charges would cost them too much money.

In 2007 the European Union capped the amount that phone companies could charge consumers for roaming. That cap should protect consumers anywhere inside the EU. However, when consumers travel outside of the EU there is no cap in place. Domestic providers can charge hefty fees, which then get passed on to you by your network provider.

So, even if the plans to ban roaming charges drafted up by the European Union go ahead, there won’t be a complete worldwide ban on therm for the foreseeable future. Something to bear in mind when travelling around the globe.

 

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