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Roam no more! Almost…

George Kollias
George Kollias is Greek born but has lived in a number of countries. Currently he is on his third year of bsc. economics in Tilburg and plans to do a masters after in a related field.

The EU always striving for its greater unification and the creation of a federation of states has taken a small step towards that direction. As of the 15th of June, roaming charges that existed since the dawn of times no longer apply!

This process of economic, political, social and industrial integration is not something new. Most European countries have chosen the path towards a more complete unification because of the numerous benefits that lie along this path. Integration means being able to use the resources and services of other countries as if they were your own. There is no better example to this than that of the Schengen area where cross country travel feels like there are no borders at all. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is another prime example of this as it allows you to have health coverage in all EU countries without the need to buy separate health insurance plans in every country you visit or pay exorbitant costs when an accident occurs.

But what is actually happening from the 15th of June? Whenever you are outside your home country, in any other EU country, you pay the same prices for calls and messages as you would at home. If you have a contract with pre-specified amount of calls, messages and data, with this new policy when using your phone abroad your consumption simply gets subtracted from your home bundle, as if you were back at home. So, if I have a phone contract with 2GB of data and unlimited calls, I can use the full 2GB of data and make unlimited calls.

Nevertheless there are certain caveats, certain restrictions, so do not assume that using your phone abroad is always cheaper. The EU has placed these restrictions under a so called ‘fair use policy’.

In order to prevent people from simply buying a cheaper phone contract from another country and using it back home and roaming all the time, there has to be more consumption of the contract at the country it was purchased than abroad. So, if I buy a phone contract at much cheaper prices in Spain, I will have to be using it more time in Spain than here in the Netherlands.

Secondly, there is a cap on unlimited data plans. So if you have a very high consumption of data, or as the EU calls it, “a reasonably high volume of roaming data” there will be a surcharge which is capped at 7.70€ plus VAT per GB. So using more data than what is deemed as ‘high volume’ means that you will be charged a certain fee on top, just like a roaming fee.

An important thing to mention here is that home providers have a higher cost when you are roaming. When you travel to Spain for holidays and use a Spanish provider (even though you have a Dutch contract) the Dutch company has to pay a fee to the Spanish company for you to be able to use their networks.

Within this fair use clause, and in order for the providers to avoid large losses, it is stated that if this new policy of no roaming charges reduces by 3% or more the operators’ net margin (the ratio of net income to revenues) they might be permitted to introduce roaming fees. So there is a short of safety net in place for the network providers to avoid large losses.

Lastly and perhaps something that people might not know, is that calling other EU countries from your home country has never been considered as roaming and thus this new no roaming fee policy does not apply to it. It might mean that you still have to pay a large amount of money when you call another EU country from your phone even though you might be currently at that same country you are calling to.

This new no roaming policy is surely beneficial and will cut down costs and perhaps enhance, ever so slightly, this sense of unification and integration, that we are part of one single federation of countries.

 

References

http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/news-and-advice/europe-mobile-roaming-charges-abolished-eu-data-spain-turkey-cruise-switzerland-a7788996.html

https://www.ft.com/content/68ee5cb6-5106-11e7-bfb8-997009366969

http://europa.eu/youreurope/citizens/consumers/telecoms-internet/mobile-roaming-costs/index_en.htm

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