Normally, news that mobile roaming charges will no longer apply in all the member states of the European Union would be met with thrill and joy.
Instead, it’s been met by silence on social media.
It seems a clear point score for consumers, who will be paying for calls, texts, and data in other EU countries the same rate they pay at home.
The European Commission hailed the end of roaming charges as “a true European success story.”
“Eliminating roaming charges is one of the greatest and most tangible successes of the EU,” the commission said. (We’d say that keeping Europe from continually going to war with itself is a greater success, but saving money on phones is good too.)
However, just a few people are praising the ruling on social media, and no conversation on this landmark achievement is ongoing on Twitter or Facebook.
Here come the exceptions
The reason? Well, first of all there are some exceptions to the rule.
If you have a very cheap mobile plan such as unlimited data, for example the operators can still apply a fair use limit on data use while roaming.
The carrier has the duty to inform you in advance about the limit, but the charge can’t be more than 7.70 (6.74) per gigabyte plus tax.
This will decline gradually to reach 2.50 (2.19) by 2022.
Sure, it’s a long way from those bills amounting to hundreds of pounds that many European consumers had to pay at the end of a month travelling across the continent.
But it’s not exactly zero charges as promised by the commission.
Moreover, a “very small number” of EU operators can still charge a small roaming fee to make up for lower-than-usual domestic rates. Also, travelling abroad for more than four months means extra fees.
A UK consumer group, Which?, warned that UK holidaymakers could still be hit with unexpected charges.
For example, calls and texts sent from UK mobiles to Spain can cost between 9p (Giffgaff) to 1.50 (O2) per minute.
Exceeding allowances would still be chargeable in the EU as it would in the UK and different providers included different countries in their roaming territories, such as the Channel Islands and Switzerland, Which? added.
Many will reap the benefits of these changes and will no longer be put off from making calls abroad,” Alex Neill, Which? managing director of home products and services, said.
“However, it is important that you take a close look at what is or isnt included in your current mobile deal. Not knowing whats included could lead to some surprising charges on your next bill.”
Another interesting point, made by Luca Schiavoni, a telecom regulation analyst at Ovum, a technology research group, in London, is that just a minority of Europeans regularly travel beyond their home country borders.
Theres just a small percentage of consumers who will benefit from the scrapping of roaming charges, he told The New York Times. Its for the few, not the many.
The Brexit factor
People in the UK aren’t very excited about the roaming ruling because of you guess it Brexit.
Once Britain leaves the EU, in March 2019, EU laws will not apply anymore, unless a deal is struck beforehand.
As noted by commentators, the scrapping of roaming charges was made under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice and then transposed into UK law.
In January, culture minister Matt Hancock reassured consumers that they would get a period of free regulated roaming before Brexit.
But the truth is nobody knows if the roaming arrangement will apply post-Brexit.
People on Twitter took note and were not happy:
Roaming charges abolished today in the EU, so you won’t pay a penny extra over your UK phone tarrif when in the EU!
Until Brexit. Enjoy!
Stan Collymore (@StanCollymore) June 15, 2017
When the Brexiteers find out the rest of the EU is losing mobile roaming charges and the UK will still have them, *then* Brexit will fall.
Colin Graham (@19acres) June 15, 2017
Mobile roaming charges end in the EU today. Another benefit that we will lose if Brexit happens.
Stephen Williams (@swilliamsmp) June 15, 2017
Businesses and residents along the Border going to lose out on the new EU legislation on roaming charges if Brexit goes ahead
linda dillon (@LindaDillon81) June 15, 2017