Thursday 14 December 2017

Phone users still 'in the dark' about new EU roaming rules, new survey shows

Stock picture
Stock picture
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Irish phone users are “in the dark” about new EU roaming rules to be enforced this week.

A survey of 1,000 people by price comparison site Bonkers.ie found that 61pc still don’t know precisely how the new law, which aims to scrap mobile roaming costs around Europe, will work.

It also found that 38pc of those planning to travel across the EU still “live in fear of shock roaming bills”.

The new law will abolish roaming fees for calls and texts, while allowing operators to continue charging roaming fees for some data.

Despite the data exception, European Commissioners and MEPs have embarked on publicity campaigns saying that all fees are to be scrapped.

This “misleading” tactic could lead to consumers facing unexpected bills, the survey found.

“Eight out of ten of those surveyed take the ‘roam-like-at-home’ rules at face value and assume that it will mean they can use their mobile phones as they would in Ireland, without incurring extra charges,” said Robyn Hamilton of Bonkers.ie.

“A huge 70pc claim that they will use more data than previously after the new rules come into effect. Mobile customers with unlimited plans will still be subject to data caps while roaming.”

Operators will still be able to charge roaming fees for some data (Stock Image)
Operators will still be able to charge roaming fees for some data (Stock Image)

Read More: Q&A: Everything you need to know about the end of roaming charges across EU

The new EU-wide law comes into force on Thursday, June 15. Under the rules, all calls and texts included in Irish phone plans will be treated the same if they travel throughout the EU.

But roaming charges across the EU will remain for data services, with only a portion of Irish users' data allowances exempt from the roaming ban.

Under the new law, mobile operators are allowed to charge up to €9.50 for a gigabyte (GB) of data.

A gigabyte of data is roughly enough to use Facebook and YouTube for a couple of hours. It is also the equivalent of an hour-long Netflix episode.

In general, consumers are entitled to around 2GB of EU roaming data for every €10 they spend on their normal monthly mobile plan here, up to the limit of what they actually get domestically.

This can be imposed by the mobile operator even if the consumer has a large or 'all you can eat' data allowance at home.

Read More: End of roaming fees - but mind Facebook and WhatsApp use

A person who spends €20 per month on a prepay mobile service that includes 10GB of data here will only be entitled to around 4GB of that data when travelling in the EU, before big roaming fees kick in again.

Most Irish mobile operators say that they will limit their users' domestic data packages as much as they can under the new law. Roaming still represents a highly profitable chunk of operators' income.

However, a spokeswoman for Vodafone Ireland said that the operator will be providing full data allowances to customers travelling throughout the EU.

Vodafone Ireland offers less data than rivals such as Three, meaning it has less to lose by respecting the full domestic data allowance.

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