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Mobile users should stay wary despite EU ban on roaming fees

Wednesday, June 14th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Mobile roaming fees will be banned throughout the EU from tomorrow – but consumers should still be aware of the potential for unexpected charges.

Experts are warning that the change will also have an impact on operators.

The ban is the result of a 2015 EU ruling that saw roaming charges capped in April last year as providers were given time to prepare.

From 15 June mobile users travelling throughout the EU will be able to use their texts, minutes and data as they do at home.

But consumer rights group Which? has warned that calls and texts sent to the EU from the UK will still be charged, and that exceeding your limit while abroad will result in charges just as it does in the UK.

Holidaymakers are also being advised to check whether the country they are visiting is included in their mobile providers’ roaming territories.

Alex Neill, managing director of home products and services at Which?, said: “It is important that you take a close look at what is or isn’t included in your current mobile deal. Not knowing what’s included could lead to some surprising charges on your next bill.”

Some providers are offering fee-free roaming in countries outside of the EU – such as Turkey and Monaco – but it’s not always the same deal for pay as you go customers as for those on pay monthly contracts.

Adrian Baschnonga, a telecoms analyst for EY, said: “The era of ‘bill shock’ for phone users travelling in the EU is drawing to a close.

'Unavoidably complex'

“However, the prospect of usage caps on unlimited data plans could create some measure of confusion for users.

“As a result, operators must ensure they communicate clearly with their customers to help build trust in the new system.”

Mr Baschnonga said fair usage policies designed to prevent abuse of the system are “unavoidably complex” and will “no doubt be burdensome for operators”.

The ban itself will cost operators hundreds of millions of pounds in revenue, it has been reported.

Vodafone Group chief financial officer Nick Reid told Mobile News it made £150m from roaming last year and will attempt to recoup it through converged services and fixed line products.

Analyst Matthew Howett said that while operators have come to embrace the ban after initial opposition, MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) are unlikely to be in a celebratory mood tomorrow.

“Many were disappointed with the final decision on the wholesale price caps, saying the data rate has been set much too high making it difficult for some to recover their costs,” he said.

“The fear is that to compensate when they can’t negotiate a good deal they will become less competitive in the domestic market and respond by putting up prices elsewhere.”

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