Using a phone abroad should be cheaper, Sub-Committee finds.
A House of Lords sub-committee, tasked with investigating the cost of using mobile phones abroad, has found that roaming charges are “unacceptably high” and deter users from using key services.
Last week, the House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on the Internal Market, Energy and Transport Committee listened to evidence from consumer rights groups and mobile networks about the pros and cons of current roaming charges.
In a letter to Ed Vaizey, minister for culture, communications and creative industries, the Sub-Committee outlined its findings and its opinions on proposals from the European Commission to lower roaming charges.
Despite strong arguments from Everything Everywhere - the company that operates the Orange and T-Mobile networks in the UK - that competition was needed to drive prices down, rather than regulation, the Sub-Committee welcomed EU proposals to put caps on prices.
However, it stressed that enough of a margin needs to be maintained so that innovation and competition can thrive.
It also pressed for a long-term view. Price caps are a means, not the end -the long-term goal should be less regulation on price caps, and more sustainable, structural solutions.
But the most important thing, the Sub-Committee said, was that companies need to put consumers at the heart of developments. Charges should be clear and customers given enough information to understand them.
Baroness O’Cathain, chairman of the sub-committee, said: “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.
“But retail price caps are only an interim solution - the EU must put in place more sustainable solutions, and by doing so develop a truly competitive marketplace in the longer term. If they do, then we can finally start to see the consumer being put first in an area where their interests have too often been neglected.”