The days of European ‘bill shocks’ are well and truly numbered. The most recent headline grabber being a German resident downloading a TV program while roaming in France facing a bill of €46,000 when he got home. But that’s all about to change and service providers will have to comply with ‘cut-off’ requirements by March in order to comply. And for some, this could be quite a challenge.
Where 2009 was a monumental year for European mobile customers roaming in another EU Member State benefiting not only from lower prices for making and receiving calls but also for texting when abroad and using data services. For those unaware of the far-reaching regulations, many in force since July 2009, they:
• Limit the price for sending a text message while abroad at €0.11. Receiving an SMS in another EU country will remain free of charge;
• Reduce the cost of surfing the web and downloading movies or video programs with a mobile phone while abroad by introducing a maximum wholesale cap of €1 per megabyte downloaded (this limit will be decreased each year);
• Include new rules that will also protect consumers from “bill shocks” by introducing a cut-off mechanism once the bill reaches €50, unless they choose another cut-off, (operators have until March 2010 to put this cut-off limit in place);
• Include further reductions in prices for mobile roaming calls with a maximum tariff of €0.43 for making a call and €0.19 for receiving one;
• Introduce per second billing after the first 30 seconds for calls made and immediately for calls received;
• And ensure that citizens are kept adequately informed of the charges that apply for data roaming services.
Whilst many CSPs might bemoan the fact that their revenues may be impacted, there could be considerable light at the end of the regulatory tunnel. Roaming has, to date, clearly been the domain of the very wealthy or those with corporate accounts. Ordinary folk learnt years ago that any other type of call is cheaper than a roaming mobile one. Regular travelers like myself, resort to carrying two phones and purchasing a local pre-paid SIM in every visited country just to avoid exorbitant roaming charges, and Skype is the order of the day in every hotel room with an internet connection.
With the economic downturn, many ‘road warriors’ roaming habits have been curtailed by management and operators have seen a noticeable drop in roaming revenues. Now with regulated charges and self-imposed cut-off limits, even mere mortals may be tempted back. Sadly, for those of us living in AsiaPac, no such regulatory environment exists. We live in hope!