Roaming charges are a huge issue for many people – no-one likes going on holiday and coming back to find a large bill caused by internet use. Now a House of Lords Committee has agreed, stating they are ‘unacceptably high.’
The House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on the Internal Market, Energy and Transport Committee heard evidence from a consumers and representatives from mobile phone company’s including Three and Everything Everywhere (T-Mobile and Orange).
Currently charges are capped within the EU to €50, but this only applies within the EU. Conclusions made by the committee are:
- Current roaming charges are “unacceptably high” and are deterring consumers from accessing increasingly important smartphone services while abroad;
- Proposals for retail and wholesale price caps (caps on using foreign networks abroad) are welcomed as a means of driving down costs for the consumer, but a margin between those caps that allows for innovation and competition to thrive has to be retained;
- The goal for the long-term must be the reduction of regulation on retail price caps and the introduction of more sustainable structural solutions. Price caps are the means, not the end, to a truly competitive marketplace; and
- Most importantly, consumers need to be at the heart of all developments. Mobile phone operators need to ensure that charges are clear, and that consumers are given all the information they need to understand them.
Baroness O’Cathain, Chairman of the Committee commented: “For too long consumers have been left in the dark as to roaming charges, leading to ‘bill shock’ when people use their phones abroad. The industry will not reduce its prices voluntarily, and the EU needs to keep up its system of price caps in order to drive costs down.’
So will this actually lead to a reduction in data-roaming costs? We’ll have to wait and see, but the committee will now write to Ed Vaizey, Minister of Culture outlining it’s views.