Lessons From Europe: End ‘Outrageous’ Roaming Fees!

by Gaurav Kheterpal on July 7, 2011

Obnoxious roaming rates are perhaps the most common reason for ‘cell phone bill shock’ horror stories. It’s hard to forget Jason Boutang, a Calgary resident who visited France for three days and then received a statement of his June bill saying he owed Virgin Mobile a whopping sum of $7,763.70.

Though some carriers including Telus have reduced their roaming rates to adopt a more “rational” data roaming policy, the lack of regulatory attention is hurting Canadian cellphone consumers. Until now, Canada and Europe have shared the notorious distinction for “roaming ripoffs”.

There’s good news for European consumers as the EU yesterday announced plans to slash mobile roaming fees by as much as 80% over three years. The new roaming rules will only apply to EU citizens visiting another member state.

In March, an Ofcom ruling ordered an 80% cut in “termination rates” – charges imposed by mobile networks for connecting customers from rival services across the U.K. IMO, both these moves reflect strong regulatory willingness to preserve consumer interest above all.

The EU has announced plans for a cap that will bring down the average charge of 2-3€ per megabyte to €0.90 from July next year. This is further expected to drop to €0.50 in July 2014. The EU already caps the price of calls and texts from other EU nations. Until now, EU consumers could be billed up to 50 times more than at home for roaming data charges. EU plans to implement these cuts in a phased manner so that within three years it will be the same price to use a mobile either at home or abroad. Rates for voice calls would also drop to €0.32, €0.28, and €0.24 in the next three years.

As per the new roaming rules, carriers must warn customers when they reach 80 per cent of their limit. In fact, EU has always maintained a zero-tolerance approach to ‘outrageous’ roaming fee. Four years back, the authority imposed maximum roaming rates on mobile network operators to put an end to “roaming rip-offs” when mobile phone users make or receive calls when abroad and send or receive text messages.

As expected, the European wireless carrier fraternity isn’t amused with this announcement. Most operators argue that such moves would dampen innovation and competition in the market.

The European Union also announced that starting 2014, mobile companies who do not own their own network will be given the right to lease network space from network-owners at regulated wholesale prices. These proposals must be approved by the European Parliament and EU’s Council of Ministers before they can be implemented across member nations.

I hope the regulatory Authority in Canada takes notice of these developments. After all, “A mobile should be mobile” – irrespective of whether it’s used in Europe or Canada. What do you think? Please share your opinion by leaving a comment.

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Written by: Gaurav Kheterpal. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.comby: RSS,TwitterFacebook, or YouTube.

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JK July 10, 2011 at 6:53 am

In my opinion, there should be some sort of agreement on roaming among EU, USA and Canada. It would be a sign of real connection between these countries and good way to build up joint venture business.

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