Change Practitioner of the Month goes to the EU- June 2017

When going on holiday it is always vital never to forget three things:

  1. Your passport,
  2. Your boarding passes and
  3. The fact that your mobile phone is practically of no use to you abroad.

The uselessness of your mobile phone is due to the fact that for as long as most of us can remember, doing conventional things like sending a text, making a call or using any data to access the Internet whilst abroad will incur very expensive charges to your monthly phone bill once you return home, sometimes costing hundreds of pounds depending on the level of use. Using your phone abroad in this way is known as ‘roaming’.

The introduction of a new European Union (‘EU’) regulation has sought to make roaming fees a thing of the past. Thus, the Facilitate4Me Change Practitioner of the Month award for June 2017 goes to…the EU, for ending roaming charges for consumers based within the EU!

Regulation (EU) 2015/2120, as amended by Regulation (EU) 2017/920, eventually led to the abolition of all roaming charges for temporary roaming within the EU and countries in the European Economic Area (‘EEA’) (i.e. Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). The new rule, dubbed ‘Roam Like at Home’, became a reality on 15th June 2017.

According to the European Commission (‘EC’) website, consumers will now pay domestic prices irrespective of where they are travelling in the EU, for phone-calls, SMS and mobile internet (data). The minutes of calls, SMS and megabytes of data that a person consumes abroad (within the EU) will be charged at the same rate as at home. Therefore, if a person has unlimited calls and SMS at home, they will also have unlimited calls and SMS available to them when roaming in the EU.

For those of us who have been hit in the past with astronomical fees after using our phones abroad, this new policy will be music to the ears. Roaming charges have been gradually reduced from 2006, with a call to the UK from Spain costing as much as 50p a minute in 2007. Despite these reductions however, the Guardian states that, ‘customers were still left trying to decode various confusing ‘bundles’ or deals offered for usage abroad. On average, roaming charges cost holidaymakers an average of £61 in 2016’. It highlighted that data compiled by Uswitch shows 20% of British mobile phone users faced higher bills after a trip to the EU.

The EU’s decision to abolish roaming charges therefore, will be greatly welcomed.

However, it is worth noting the fine print (as always!). According to the regulation, if a person has unlimited mobile data or very cheap mobile data at home, his operator may apply a safeguard (fair use) limit on data use while roaming.  This means that the operator can set a cap on how much free data the consumer can use, after which they can charge up to approximately £7.7 + VAT to use the remainder of their allowance while abroad. The operator must inform the customer in advance about such a limit and alert them when they reach this limit.

Furthermore, free roaming only applies to people who use it for the purposes of “periodic travel”. As long as a person travels periodically and spends more time in their home country than abroad over any 4-month period, they can fully benefit from “Roam Like at Home”. However, if a person stays in another country within the EU longer than in their home country over the same period, the operator can contact them and request they pay more.

The official guidelines of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (‘BEREC’) define these exceptions as a ‘fair usage policy’, designed ‘to prevent abusive or anomalous usage’ such as the use of roaming services for purposes other than periodic travel.

Despite these caveats however, it can still be agreed that the “Roam Like at Home” regulation is a brilliant idea, making travelling abroad a lot cheaper for the majority of consumers and putting an end to astronomical mobile phone charges. It remains to be seen whether the UK will continue to benefit from this provision once they officially leave the EU in 2019, but for the next 2 years at least, UK consumers will continue to qualify under the service. Therefore, Facilitate4Me gladly congratulates the EU for implementing this revolutionary regulation.

Now where did I put my passport?

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