/ Technology

Want to phone home? It’s cheaper to call from Paris

Rip-off roaming rates could become a thing of the past thanks to new caps on the cost of using your mobile in Europe. But the new prices could make it cheaper to call a UK mobile from abroad than at home.

Sound bonkers? Well it is. Unless you’re on pay-as-you-go, there’s every chance you have no idea what you’re charged per text or minute; most tariffs include so much free time that you’re never billed for more than you’ve used.

Outside any inclusive minutes, pay-monthly customers on O2, Orange and Vodafone currently pay 35p/minute to call and 12p to text UK numbers.

Cheaper to call home from away

At those prices, the EU caps arriving on 1 July will make it around 30% cheaper to text a UK mobile from abroad than from UK soil. Text messages while roaming in the EU will cost no more than 8.4p, and calls will have a maximum charge of 27.6p/minute.

And the differences will get more pronounced; by 2014 EU roaming charges will be capped at 6p/text and 18p/minute, making it half as much to use your UK mobile in the EU than on some tariffs at home.

One of the targets on the Digital Agenda for Europe is that ‘the difference between roaming and national tariffs would approach zero by 2015’. But I doubt the EC envisaged domestic charges would have to drop in line with international rates for that to be achieved.

So how are our UK service providers getting away with charging so much more?

Cheaper to deliver the message in person

There’s already a huge difference in what we’re charged to call Europe and what it would cost to make the same call from the same mobile from Europe to the UK. EU roaming charges are already capped, so a 30 minute call home from Paris will cost no more than about £10. To call a Parisian phone from the UK would cost up to £30 – only £1 less than getting a flight over there to deliver the message in person.

Need to call a friend in Berlin? Don’t bother ringing from the UK; if you’re on Vodafone you’d be around £10 better off getting a return ferry to Calais (£20) and having a 45 minute chat from there (£15.12).

Domestic call charges might seem high because they don’t take the perks of your contract into account; free texts and minutes arguably take the edge off high rates for use outside your contract. But at 12p/text, pay-as-you-go charges are just as high, and O2 charges 35p/minute whether you have a contract or not.

I think it’s crazy that UK providers can charge us so much more to use our mobiles at home, and about time the prices were capped here like they have been in the EU. Otherwise, what’s stopping providers from setting non-inclusive rates so high that everyone’s scared into signing up for a monthly contract with more minutes and texts than they’ll ever need?

Do you think you’re charged fairly by your mobile provider, and do you get enough perks to make the rates worthwhile?

Mark says:
24 June 2012

Giffgaff is far cheaper for calls and texts, 10p/minute and 6p a text for pay as you go – worth checking out…

The price discrepancy of sending text messages is particularly noticeable. In order to avoid roaming charges, I acquire SIM cards in many countries that I visit. Using my Belarus SIM card, I can send SMS to any number in the world for only 1.5p, and using my Irish SIM card, I can send free SMS worldwide, up to 500 messages per month from their web site. There is no reason for SMS to cost more internationally than domestically. It’s high time that the EU mandated that cross-border telecommunications cost the same as domestic telecommunications, just as they have already mandated for cross-border euro financial transactions.

axecomm says:
29 June 2012

A customer with the Utility Warehouse can get free calls to 01, 02 & 03 UK landline numbers and to 10 major international destinations. UW has a wi-fi mobile app that allows calls on mobiles from anwhere in the world, as long as the handset is in wi-fi range, to be made as though making a call in the in the UK. Thus a customer could be in China and make a mobile call to, say, Australia, France or the USA at zero cost. Someone with on holiday in France can use their mobile to ring any standard land line in France or call their family in the UK – again at zero cost. Simple, effective and economic.

Frank says:
29 June 2012

I have just been informed by O2 that they are changing their European roaming rates from July. All calls received or sent incur an initial 50p ‘connection’ charge then will be charged at UK rates. As I only use my phone for short calls this is a major price increase from existing 36 ppm to call and 11 ppm to receive! Can they do this under the EU caps??

And the group affected by high PAYG charges are those under 18 or otherwise without credit rating, or even parents with credit rating and unwilling to trust/sign over a contract. Only t-mobile’s YouFix contracts will cap spend (perhaps more contracts should be like this), effectively best of both worlds : contract rates but outside the inclusive allowances PAYG bundles/specific credit to be able to use facilities. No surprise bills.

as for foreign charges, when O2 can do 1p /min to china, poland etc (from UK) on their free international opt in to a standard SIM, it does seem daft to be then charging 25p for a UK to UK call even to a landline (lets ignore the 0800 “FreeFone” premium rate )

But for those who have to use PAYG, are stuck
why wouldn’t EU caps be applied at a national level – max at anytime/anywhere (even at home) and to any call – esp landline and 0800 calls ?