Three blames rising costs and new roaming regulations for €5 a month hike
Mobile operator Three is raising its monthly prices by up to €5, blaming costs and new roaming regulations.
Around 900,000 of its bill pay customers will pay €5 a month more than their existing contract plans, while 700,000 prepay customers will now have to pay a minimum of €20 for a top-up to receive existing benefits.
There will be a shortened credit period for each top-up and no more free weekend calls to rival operators.
The company will begin issuing notices of the price rises to customers today, offering them the opportunity to cancel existing contracts. Phones included in such contracts are kept by customers by convention.
"This is the first time that Three has revised the cost of its core portfolio in a number of years," said a spokeswoman. "These changes are a direct result of the increase in costs of doing business. Notwithstanding the revisions, we still offer some of the most competitive plans on the market that are affordable and offer real value to our customers."
Until now, prepay customers with the operator were able to top up by €5, €10 and €15 and receive full benefits. Now, those topping up on the lower amounts will get credit but not other benefits.
Three has also served notice that it will not give customers a full "roam like home" data allowance after a new EU law on the issue takes effect in June.
While the law is supposed to let people use as much data, calls and texts when travelling across the EU, mobile operators believe they have found a way to limit its application on data allowances.
Three is to change the wording of its plans, describing its current 'all you can eat' data allowances as "service benefits" rather than being part of the "core plan".
Using this combination of words allows mobile operators to legally avoid giving customers access to the full level of mobile data when travelling in the EU, according to industry sources. Instead of 'all you can eat' data, bill pay customers with Three will now get between 1GB and 7GB of data abroad, depending on whether their monthly bill pay plan costs €30, €45 or €60.
The Irish Independent understands that other Irish mobile operators are now set to follow suit with plans to prevent customers getting their full domestic data allowances when roaming in the EU.
A spokesman for Meteor and Eir said that the operators will not provide the same level of mobile data for customers travelling in the EU, while a spokeswoman for Virgin Mobile said that it is reviewing its plans. However, a spokeswoman for Vodafone said that the operator will honour its domestic data plans for customers travelling in the EU with no extra costs.
Spokespersons for Tesco Mobile and iD did not return calls on the issue.
A spokesman for the Minister for Communications, Denis Naughten, said that it would be “inappropriate” for him to say anything about it.
“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on matters which are independently regulated by ComReg, who have a role in scrutinising all existing and new mobile market offerings to ensure full legal and regulatory compliance.
ComReg also has a statutory role in protecting the consumer and I am not in the business of engaging in speculative commentary regarding hypothetical scenarios involving individual companies. I would expect all companies operating in the Irish space to be compliant with Irish and EU legislation, including ‘Roam Like At Home’.
“We are informed that BEREC, the collective body of European Telecoms Regulators, of which ComReg is a member, is already examining how the rules of Roam Like At Home will be implemented in practice from 15 June 2017, so as to respect the full spirit of the agreement.”