EU scraps plan to axe mobile roaming charges

High phone charges on holiday set to continue

Social Media Life

The EU has abandoned its plans to get rid of mobile roaming charges by the end of this year.

Currently, mobile phone users can face hefty charges when using their phones abroad, whether to make calls, check their email or search the web.

In 2013, the European Commission proposed a plan to end these extra costs, and the proposal was backed by MEPs. In the meantime, last summer, roaming charges were halved across 40 EU countries, making calls cost no more than 19c a minute, texts just 6c and downloading 20 MB no more than more than 20c.

Now, though, EU member states have agreed that instead of ending roaming charges altogether, as planned, large mobile phone firms should be allowed to carry on levying them for at least another three years. The situation may be reviewed after that.

While they say customers should be given a small roaming allowance from the middle of next year, going over it will still mean extra charges.

Not all MEPs agree with the decision. "EU member states should hang their heads in shame," commented Belgian MEP Guy Verhofstadt on Twitter.

And even the industry is dubious.

"In terms of roaming, we would recommend further refinement to the proposals in areas such as the 'basic roaming allowance', in order to avoid unnecessary implementation costs and a lengthy set-up period," says the GSMA, an association of mobile operators, in a statement.

"Note that increasing numbers of mobile operators already provide options such as roaming at domestic prices as part of their existing consumer offerings."

Most phone companies offer special roaming packages for customers that sign up in advance. However, a recent survey from travel company Holiday Gems found that 43% of people don't bother checking roaming fees before they go abroad, and that 34% of people have received an unexpectedly high bill. More than two thirds of travellers simply turn their phone off for the whole time they're away.

In one example last year, a Warwickshire teacher was hit with a £2,609 bill from Orange after downloading 'The Best of Neil Diamond' while on holiday in South Africa. The year before, a mum from south London with a serious Facebook habit was charged £20,000 - or £2,700 a day - for data roaming while on holiday in Turkey.

In some cases, phone companies have agreed to waive or reduce the cost, but most customers simply have to pay up.

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