Three and Everything Everywhere discuss the pros and cons of roaming charges.
The high cost of roaming data was debated in the House of Lords yesterday, with representatives from mobile networks and consumer groups making the case for and against the practice of charging customers excessively for using their phones abroad.
An EU sub-committee is investigating “bill shock” and roaming costs, following a vote by the European Parliament last week to cap roaming charges. Many people are surprised to see their bill after a trip overseas, particularly since using mobile broadband is relatively low cost in the UK.
UK Operator Three told the sub-committee that is against the current roaming charges, stating that varying wholesale rates from different European operators push up the price for Brits abroad - the networks tend to charge based on the highest wholesale rate, meaning customers are forced to pay through the nose.
Julie Minns, the head if public policy for Three UK, told MPs: “We don’t believe these charges can be justified. We might be able to negotiate a reasonable rate in Spain, but not in other countries. Our consumers would prefer to have a European rate, not just an individual country rate.”
Bob Warner, chair of the Communications Consumer Panel agreed: “Rates have been too high for too long.” He stated that the cost of calling and texting had come down to acceptable levels after scrutiny from regulators, but data charges needed more attention.
“Data prices are still much too high,” said Warner. “They probably undercharge for data in the UK and overcharge abroad. You get used to having data at very low rates in the UK and so develop certain usage habits and then go abroad and get bill shock.”
However, not everyone agreed prices were too high. Robyn Durie, the director of regulatory affairs for Everything Everywhere, the company that operates the Orange and T-Mobile networks in the UK, explained: “Mobile data is relatively new, and prices have come down quite dramatically. I don't think the charges are particularly high.”
She added: “We would like to see more competition in the market rather than price caps. Competition is far more effective than price caps in bringing prices down.”
Photo by ell brown