European Union slashes mobile phone roaming charges from today

30th June 2014

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Holiday goers using their mobile phone abroad are set to get much better deal from today when the European Union introduces a cap on so-called roaming charges.

From 1 July 2014, the EU will cut the price caps for data downloads by more than half: down from 45 cents per megabyte to 20c/MB which will make it far cheaper for holiday makers to use maps, watch videos, check emails and update social networks while traveling across the EU.

The maximum charge for outgoing calls, excluding VAT, will be 19 cents per minute and six cents for outgoing text messages.

To put it into context: football fans traveling in the EU during this World Cup season will pay 25 times less for data roaming as compared to the last tournament in 2010. The new caps however only apply to mobile use within the nations of the European Union.

Research from consumer watchdog group Which? has found that as many as one in six people over the past year have experienced a high mobile bill shock upon returning to Blightly. Of those stung, one in four or 25% were charged more than £40 over and above their usual monthly usage.

Four in 10, or 39%, said they didn’t know they had a right to challenge their mobile phone provider if they received an excessive bill after using their phone abroad.

Worryingly nearly half  of mobile users who have been abroad in the last 12 months said they didn’t know that the price caps don’t apply to the whole of Europe, with 48% believing that they do.

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, says: “Capping EU mobile roaming charges is welcome news for millions of travelers, especially those who have faced expensive charges for data roaming when their mobile hasn’t even left their suitcase.

“Consumers traveling within the EU should now be much clearer on the charges they have to pay.”

Which?’s consumer rights website has advice on how to challenge bill shock and how to complain if the mobile phone company doesn’t take any action.

Comparison site uSwitch.com says that British holidaymakers have racked up eye-watering mobile roaming bills of of £394million to date. It says the scrapping of EU roaming charges in late 2015 cannot come soon enough.

A quarter (25%) of Brits have returned from trips to the EU to be landed with a larger than normal mobile phone bill, averaging £55.59[8]. Almost a quarter (23%) paid £50 or more on top of their usual monthly bill, while over a fifth (21%) paid between £20 and £30 more than normal, and 19% paid £30 to £40 more.

Those holidaying within the EU are already protected from high mobile roaming charges and, from today, mobile networks will be forced to cap roaming charges within EU countries even further. The new caps mean it now costs just €0.19 per minute to make calls, €0.05 per minute to receive calls, €0.06 to send a standard text message and €0.20 per MB of mobile data, down from €0.24 per minute to make calls, €0.07 per minute to receive calls, €0.08 to send a standard text message and €0.45 per MB of mobile data.

However the website warns that the same caps don’t apply to holidaymakers setting foot outside the EU and, with some not clued up on which countries are in the European Union, may be vulnerable to bill shock. More than four in 10 (41%) wrongly believe Switzerland is an EU country, while 38% think Turkey is a member state.

A quarter (25%) incorrectly think Iceland is in the EU and 12% think Tunisia is. Considering that Turkey is the UK’s second most popular holiday destination of 2014, and Switzerland is the ninth favourite, according to travel comparison site Top10.com, some bill payers could be in for a nasty shock.

In fact, Brits heading to Turkey for a fortnight this summer could chalk up a £258 mobile phone bill just by making two five-minute calls, listening to a two-minute voicemail message, sending 10 text messages and using 10MB of data each day[4]. Fortunately, UK networks automatically impose their own roaming caps of around £40 on their customers, but these are very easy to opt out of, usually by text message.

There is also much confusion over roaming rules. One in eight (13%) have the wrong end of the stick, believing that roaming charges are due to be scrapped worldwide in 2015. And almost one in 10 (9%) incorrectly think roaming charges have already been scrapped completely in the EU. This is not due to happen until late 2015.

U-Switch has researched countries where Britons may mistakenly believe they are in an EU country listed below.

Country EU/Non EU % that think this IS an EU country % that think this is NOT an EU country
Turkey Non EU 38% 62%
Albania Non EU 23% 77%
Belarus Non EU 21% 79%
Ukraine Non EU 28% 72%
Switzerland Non EU 41% 59%
Tunisia Non EU 12% 88%
Iceland Non EU 25% 75%
Montenegro Non EU 20% 80%
Bulgaria EU 60% 40%
Croatia EU 55% 45%
Romania EU 66% 34%
Cyprus EU 61% 39%

 

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