Warning over ‘hidden charges’ of roaming

Consumers have been warned of the hidden charges that remain as part of the EU’s new “roam like at home” mobile roaming rules.

While the rules have been largely welcomed, consumers have been warned some catches do apply.

Consumers will be able to use their phone roaming in the EU to make calls and send texts as they would at home without incurring any extra charges.

However, providers will be permitted to impose what are known as “fair usage” policies when it comes to data roaming. This means providers can place a cap on the data a user will be entitled to use when abroad.

If the user breaks this, the operator can charge you for data roaming, capped at €7.70 per GB of data. This figure will decrease gradually to €2.50 by 2022.

Customers will receive a text upon arrival in an EU country with a reminder of their data roaming allowance and the surcharges that may apply if the free allowance is exceeded. Once 80% of the allowance is used, a further text will issue, and a further one again when the limit is reached. Consumers will then be charged beyond that point.

Vodafone is the one provider here that is breaking the mould in that regard. It is providing customers with the use of their full data allowance within their plans while roaming in Europe at no extra cost — the only Irish operator to do so.

In short, Vodafone customers can use their tariffs in the EU exactly as they would at home.

Communications Minister Denis Naughten said the deal was “transparent” and said he had called on providers not to pass on the costs incurred to consumers

“I met with all the main mobile operators yesterday and asked them to give me an assurance that they will be fully compliant with the new rules and are ready for these new changes. I was adamant that costs should not be passed down to consumers in respect of the market effects of ‘roam like at home’ and technically the same level of service must be offered as that experienced at home,” he said.

Maurice Quinlivan, Sinn Féin’s spokesman on jobs, enterprise, and innovation, warned that Brexit poses a challenge for those who commute across the border to work.

“Roaming charges have been a severe nuisance and injustice to thousands of people living in the border region who commute to work daily across the border, resulting in increased phone bills. Brexit poses a challenge in this regard also, and if the North is dragged out of the EU, a return to charges will inevitably follow,” he said.

Fine Gael senator Catherine Noone said providers need to make it clear to their customers that they will be charged if they exceed their data allowance.

“I am calling on all network providers operating in the Republic of Ireland to inform their users of their data allowances when travelling within the EU via text or email,” she said.

“Despite information being available on network provider websites, many consumers may not be aware that limitations of data usages and large surplus charges are even possible under the legislation.”

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