Irish mobile phone operators are under increasing pressure to reduce roaming charges in advance of an EU ruling that will make their abolition compulsory by June of next year.
From April 30, as the final part of a phased reduction in charges before total abolition, all mobile phone operators will only be permitted to charge a small additional amount on top of normal domestic fees when customers roam in the EU.
After more than a decade of promises, the EU reached an agreement in June of last year to end roaming charges across all 28 member states as of June 2017. Regulations introduced since 2007 have meant that roaming prices within the EU have been dropping consistently over the past few years. Prices for roaming calls, SMS and data have fallen by 80% since 2007.
Some operators have opted to start reducing costs even further in advance of the June 2017 deadline. By the end of this month Eir will become the first mobile operator in Ireland to get rid of EU roaming charges altogether. Customers can use their existing call and text allowances anywhere in the EU and get an additional 1GB of EU roaming data, as part of a range of new price plans that fall under the “roam for free” banner.
Up to 40,000 existing Eir mobile customers, who signed up to Eir Mobile from September 2015, will also have the new benefit applied to their accounts by the end of this month. New customers will receive free EU roaming across a range of plans from €20 a month.
Eir’s subsidiary, Meteor, will also launch a range of plans that will include free EU roaming.
Eir’s director of mobile, Maeve O’Malley, introduced the initiative saying: “Our customers love value, have a big appetite for data and don’t want to worry about unplanned post-holiday phone bills. So, ahead of the holiday season, we wanted to give them something that would make trips to the rest of Europe even more enjoyable, irrespective of where they are.”
Bart Lehane, CEO of Killbiller — an app that details mobile phone usage across various plans — said Eir and Meteor have stolen a march on their competitors but that customers should still be aware of roaming charges when travelling outside the EU.
“Obviously if you go outside the EU it’s still open season and it varies quite considerably. Vodafone still offer the best value in the United States and other countries beyond the EU.”
The April reductions mean EU roaming will be up to four times less expensive than previously and they were welcomed yesterday by Ireland South MEP Seán Kelly who has been campaigning for the scrapping of roaming charges since 2009.
“This reduction is is part of the transition towards the complete abolition of roaming charges by June 15, 2017,” he said.
“By next June, extortionate roaming charges will be a thing of the past. Consumers will no longer be ripped off when paying for mobile calls, texts and data when they travel to another EU member state, including across the border to Northern Ireland.
“It is nonsensical and a total abuse of power over consumers that they were subjected to outrageous roaming charges when travelling in another EU country.”
For more information on comparative domestic and roaming charges go online to www.killbiller.com
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved