It seems we’ve seen a step back on roaming charges after the European Commission announced a catch on what appeared to be an otherwise great win for travelling mobile phone users.
For a while there, it looked like the worry of how to keep up to date with Facebook and emails, and the ever-risky endgame of ‘bill shock’ was going to be a thing of the past. After keeping us all in suspense for a fair few years, the European Parliament finally announced last year that it would be scrapping EU mobile roaming charges. At the time, this was taken to mean an end to uncertainty about using your mobile in the EU.
Whenever I go on holiday to Europe, one of the first things I do is switch my phone to airplane mode – and that’s not just for safety reasons.
Unless it’s a real emergency, I’ll leave it like that for the whole trip, as I’m always terrified of getting home to a massive bill having accidentally gobbled up data while I’ve been having fun and taking it easy.
As much as I find it relaxing to go without my phone for a week or so, it would be nice to have the choice of staying online rather than entering a communications black hole.
Indeed, there are some provisions in place to protect consumers from astronomical mobile phone bills, such as text alerts and caps for reaching a certain thresholds – but to entirely remove the worry was what we were expecting.
The European Commission has said that consumers could only ‘roam’ for 30 days at a time and only for a total of 90 days in a year. After that, fees will still apply, with a cap of four cents [around 3.4p] per minute, one cent [0.83p] per SMS and 0.85 cents [0.71p] per MB.
This may well cover many consumers’ needs, but the crux of it is that it hasn’t really put an end to roaming fees at all. It’ll be fine for those people doing short trips within the European Union (EU), but anyone planning on spending over a month at a time there will still face the same old problems, as will anyone who needs a phone there for over 90 days of the year.
If you frequently travel within the EU, perhaps you split your time between there and the UK, travel there for work or are doing an Erasmus year at a European University, then your UK mobile is still going to cost you extra if you want to use it.
A fair charge?
So, at least at first glance, this is a bit of a setback in the fight for genuinely free mobile roaming. For now, I’ll just have to put up with airplane mode.
Update: 13 September 2016
The proposal by the European Commission to cap free mobile phone roaming in the EU at 90 days per year has been withdrawn.
A spokesperson for the European Commission said:
‘We have been listening, and now we are going back to the drawing board and we will come up with a better proposal’.
New guidelines are expected to be released in the coming days.
What do you think to mobile roaming charges? Do you think it’s fair to charge people extra for using their mobile while abroad? Or do the new guidelines go far enough for your needs?
Update: 22 September 2016
The European Commission has scrapped plans to cap free mobile phone roaming in the EU at 90 days per year and announced that there will be no limits on time or the volume of data used.
Officials revised proposals to put a limit on free roaming after it was met with widespread criticism.
Andrus Ansip, EU Commissioner for the Digital Single Market, said: ‘We will not put any kind of limits on duration or, how many days (travellers) can enjoy no roaming surcharges, but we decided to put some clear safeguards on residency,’
The new arrangements will be based on where phone users live or an EU country they regularly visit for work, and are expected to be finalised by the end of 2016.