Friday 15 December 2017

Brian Hayes: Delaying the abolition of roaming charges is a cop out

Every time they go abroad, people ask: “How much will it cost to use my phone?”

Irish people love to use their mobile phones while abroad. In fact, our usage is 12pc higher than the EU average.

Despite the steady reduction in roaming charges, the traveling public is still being ripped off. This is in spite of constant efforts by many lawmakers to scrap these charges across the EU.

The latest twist to this story is that big telecoms companies are now demanding that the proposed abolition of roaming charges, which should have happened this year, be postponed for another three years. 

Less than 10 years ago, if you holidayed in France, Spain or any EU country it would have cost you over €12 to make a five-minute phone call to Ireland. Similar madness existed with regard to text charges.

In 2007 the EU introduced price caps. Since then the cost of using a mobile phone abroad has progressively reduced.

In 2013 the EU Commission proposed scrapping roaming charges altogether. MEPs overwhelmingly voted in favour of getting rid of roaming charges by the end of 2015.

Now the European Council – made up of EU communications ministers – wants to delay the abolition for three years. I don’t see any reason, other than satisfying the wishes of big business, why the council would want to delay this decision.

Communications ministers meet soon and are likely to decide that mobile phone providers need more time to put in place a plan for the scrapping of charges. I believe this is a total cop-out. How long until the scrapping of the charges then?

We may see reductions to the cost of roaming aboard from January 2016, with further reductions each year until 2019 when roaming charges are completely abolished.

We may even see a compromise that the abolition will happen in 2017. Or we may see a stalemate.

Given the reduction in charges from the extortionate levels of recent years we now need to finish the job. Both the consumer and the digital economy will benefit by the abolition of roaming charges.

One of the big issues we need to deal with in Brussels over the next four years is a single digital market for Europe.

You cannot do that by allowing the roaming rip-off to continue.

Brian Hayes is a member of the European Parliament for Dublin

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