Thursday, April 23, 2009

EU cuts roaming charges, but subscribers still need more

Yesterday's decision by the European Commission to impose a cap on roaming charges for data and SMS will force mobile operators to cut their roaming charges ahead of us heading off for a bit of sun, sand and sangria.

As EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding put it: “Today’s vote marks the definite end of the roaming rip off in Europe. Thanks to the strong support of the European Parliament and the Council, the new roaming rules were agreed in the record time of just 7 months. Just in time for the summer holidays, European citizens will now be able to see the single market without borders on their phone bills.”

However, while cutting the roaming charges is certainly welcome from a subscriber perspective, it's still only going part way. What the charges are still remain a mystery to most of us.

Talking to mobileip, Openet's CMO Mike Manzo explained. “The EU’s decision to introduce a cap for roaming texts/data is going to be welcomed by consumers planning their holidays, especially those that have previously been surprised by a bill after returning home from abroad. But that is only part of the issue - today consumers have very little visibility into charging and usage.

"Consumers don’t want nasty surprises, they want to know how much they are paying for services and what their balance is. That means that operators need to shift from the traditional post-billing model to offering real-time visibility to subscribers. While it is great for consumers that their roaming charges in the EU are going to be lower, the operators that are going to be the real consumer champions will be the ones that give their subscribers the knowledge and power to control their mobile bill.”

The EU has made a valiant attempt to give citizens a bit more information, with a list of what the roaming charges will be in each country.

In a nutshell, you can't afford to go on holiday if you're a T-Mobile customer! Their roaming charges are nearly double those of both 3 and O2. Which if you happened to be visiting Germany on Tuesday would have been fine, as the network was down so you couldn't have made calls anyway, but otherwise makes it an expensive choice of operator.

So, much as it pains me to say it, good work EU. But come on operators, don't stop there. Don't hide behind confused billing and poor advice of charge to milk subscribers.

Actually, thinking it through, if you switched from T-Mobile to O2 and sent just 10 SMS messages on holiday, you've probablly saved enough for an extra Sangria!

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