Business Mobiles see Overseas Roaming Cap
A cap on mobile data roaming charges across the EU will almost halve the cost of doing business via smartphones or laptops with dongles while travelling overseas from July.
The EU Commission decision has been welcomed by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and mobile company 3, which jointly campaigned for a restriction on data costs while customers ‘roam’ international mobile networks. The price of calls and texts is already capped.
The new data cap, which comes into force on 1 July, means mobile companies can charge no more than 70 cents (currently 59p) for every megabyte of data downloaded in other EU countries. This maximum price will go down further, to 45 cents (37p) in July 2013 and finally 20 cents (17p) in July 2014. Customers will also be allowed to sign up for roaming deals that are not provided by their domestic operator.
Mobile operators can currently set their own prices for data, such as emails, downloaded through roaming services — although the EU introduced an automatic €50 cut-off in 2010 to limit “bill shock” among unwary travellers. This cut-off can be overridden by customers with higher data requirements.
UK operators charge as much as £1 per megabyte. However, many also sell data in ‘bundles’, which can significantly reduce costs — T-Mobile, for example, offers a 50MB ‘Euro-booster’ for £10.
“We are pleased with the ruling last week as it will help to close the gap between what people pay when at home and [abroad] without fear of a large bill when they return,”
said an FSB spokesman.
“We were part of a group of businesses led by 3 which put pressure on the EU Commission to do this and so the decision should go some way to achieving that goal.”
“Consumers are fed up with being ripped off by high roaming charges,”
said the EU’s digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes.
“The new roaming deal gives us a long-term structural solution, with lower prices, more choice and a new smart approach for data and internet browsing. By summer 2014, people can shop around for the best deal.”
Tony Curtis, founder of heated sports glove manufacturer Alago, said the data price cap was “much needed”.
“I was in Germany a couple of months ago and I get an alert from my operator for every £3 I spent on data while doing my emails or browsing the web,” he said. “I was only there for three days and turned the phone on twice, but I still got a bill for £20.”
The communications regulator Ofcom, which has also campaigned for a data charge cap, advises travellers to buy a local SIM card or dongle for use in a laptop and to make use of local Wi-Fi hotspots when emailing or browsing. It warned that roaming charges beyond the EU can be much higher — often as much as £10 per megabyte. The new EU rules will also bring in warnings for customers who are travelling outside the EU and who hit a €50 limit on their data-roaming usage.