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?