Thursday, 7 February 2019

No-one Move Or the Roaming Charges Get It

From the Guardian

The government has formally announced that UK nationals could face high roaming charges for using their mobile phones in the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit, after the news was quietly disclosed a day earlier.

Answering an urgent question from Labour in parliament on Thursday, the culture secretary, Jeremy Wright, said that if there was no deal there would be nothing the government could do to prevent companies from imposing roaming charges, though voluntary agreements had been sought.

The shadow culture secretary, Tom Watson, said the possible return of roaming charges, which were abolished in 2017 around the EU, showed that ministers had opted to “cave to the lobbying might of telecoms companies rather than listen to the voice of consumers who are set to lose out”.

I knew someone in the mid-2000s who travelled around Europe on business and switched to Skype. He told me that it had cut his phone bill from around £250/month to less than £50/month. He paid £5/day for hotel wifi and then called on Skype. We did a few calls about work.

And over time, wifi went from being something cafes could sell with your coffee to something that attracted people to buy coffee. It's easy to find somewhere with free wifi.

The effect of this is that the lucrative business of charging people for roaming calls and data was disappearing. At a certain point, a company was going to figure they might as well sacrifice it for competitive advantage, which is what Three did.

Then what happened is that the EU made this law for all companies, something the companies were all going to do soon anyway, and took the credit for it, even though it was mostly about technology.

Vodafone could re-introduce roaming charges, but I'll switch provider if they do, and even if all the companies did it, I have 2 cafes where I go on holiday with wifi.


Lola said...

The whole EU roaming charge thing was just more EU marketing to keep their racket going.
Agree with all you say and have done most of that myself.

Shiney said...

Its all bollocks obviously.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Correct, there is some supra-national agreement that mobile phone companies can't take the piss (which might have just been bowing to the technologically inevitable), but seeing as it applies in non-EEA, non-EU countries like Switzerland, let's assume our UK govt decides that it still applies to people with a UK contract.

mombers said...

Luckily it is a lot easier and cheaper now to get a throw away SIM if your carrier wants to whack you with crazy charges. I do this in South Africa. Don't even need to worry about texts as there's WhatsApp which stays the same number unless you explicitly change it.

I imagine that it's simply not worth their while to collect rentier roaming charges now that these would be such a tiny proportion of revenue, and would probably be more than offset by customer defections.

That said, the EU is very good at smashing mobile operator monopolies. Look at the US, where people pay approximately double, because they don't force monopoly spectrum holders to sell to virtual networks at cost plus a normal profit margin.

Curtis said...

Yes, I use 3 and I pay the same price for calls/texts/data in the UK as in Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand, as well as other non-EU countries I don't visit. This started before the EU had even announced its plans to cap roaming charges within the EU.

Using my UK phone in Hong Kong has been cheaper than getting a local SIM in Hong Kong for some years, but data in Australia is cheaper due to psychological pricing - in the UK I pay £10 for 1 GB while in Australia I pay $10 for 1 GB, as $20 would seem too expensive (of course some people pay less per GB because they use a lot more, but I imagine there are some fixed costs). This indicates that despite the reduced prices the companies are still making large profits.

Jeremy Wright, said that if there was no deal there would be nothing the government could do to prevent companies from imposing roaming charges,

Err, why not?

Graeme said...

It is interesting that people fixate on roaming charges rather than the whole pricing package. According to wiki it seems that in Norway the monthly rentals increased when they dropped European roaming charges ..

Graeme said...

There is nothing to stop the government imposing identical legislation to the EU in this area is there

Physiocrat said...

Just buy a local SIM with some mobile data, usually about a fiver, and put it in an old phone, then use Skype or WhatsApp.

Matt said...

For roaming you are effectively paying the other party (telco) for the call. Since they would be in Europe, the UK government can't legislate on the costs.

The Stigler said...


True, but that works both ways. I use my Vodafone phone in France and some chap from Paris uses his SFR phone in London. So the cost is nil between the parties.

It's why Voda and SFR had that sort of deal before the EU regulations.

Matt said...

@ The Stigler

So it's fixed by commercial agreements not by government intervention?

The Stigler said...


Yes. Mostly. OK - there were a few nobs added on. I got all my data instead of part of it, and I could use Orange as well as SFR (makes no difference), but the bulk of the roaming stuff was already there.