The EU cuts roaming charges further while the UK weighs Brexit impact

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Digital Single Market, Günther Oettinger, Member of the EC in charge of Digital Economy and Society, and Carlos Moedas, Member of the EC in charge of Research, Science and Innovation, gave a joint press conference on the presentation of the path to digitise European industry. © European Union , 2016 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: Georges Boulougouris.

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President of the EC in charge of Digital Single Market (pictured here), Günther Oettinger, Member of the EC in charge of Digital Economy and Society, and Carlos Moedas, Member of the EC in charge of Research, Science and Innovation, gave a joint press conference on the presentation of the path to digitise European industry. © European Union , 2016 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Georges Boulougouris.

Since April 30, using a mobile phone within the EU is significantly cheaper for European citizens. Last Saturday, 30 of April, a new interim cap on mobile roaming charges in the European Union came into effect, with cuts the bill up to nearly 75 per cent. The new cost cap is the latest move in the plan to abolish roaming charges throughout the EU completely by 2017. By mid-June next year, Europeans will pay the same price whether they use their mobile devices at home or somewhere else in the EU, although some crucial games are still to be played in the meantime.

Current costs

When travelling in the EU, mobile devices users will only pay a small amount on top of their domestic prices: up to €0.05 per minute of call made, €0.02 per SMS sent, and €0.05 extra per MB of data (excl. VAT). The biggest reductions concern data download, such as emails and social media content, where the roaming charges have been cut by around 75 per cent, with charges for outgoing phone calls being slashed by a similar amount. The charge for texting will be reduced by about 66 per cent.

These rates are the maximum permissible fees and operators are free to offer cheaper deals, the European Commission said. When these fees will be phased out next year, European mobile phone users will pay exactly the same price to make calls, surf the internet and send texts, regardless where they will be in the 28-states bloc.

Reactions

Particularly, European Commission’s Vice President for the Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said: “We’re in the home stretch now before the end of roaming charges in 2017”. “This is not only about Europeans saving money, this is about bringing down barriers in the Digital Single Market”, he declared. The rules entering into force tomorrow also set the principle of net neutrality rules for the first time in EU law, as explained by the European Commission.

Commissioner Günther Oettinger, European Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society expressed satisfaction for the news, and said roaming charges will be soon “old memories”.”These rules protect the right of every European to access the online content of their choice, without interference or discrimination”, he said. “They will avoid fragmentation in the Single Market, creating legal certainty for businesses and making it easier for them to work across border”, Commissioner Oettinger added.

Benefits with some concerns

Consumer groups also greeted the news. “We welcome the slashing of roaming prices,” said Monique Goyens, head of the European Consumer Organisation. “Today’s consumers do not understand why crossing a border in Europe has to result in soaring phone and internet costs,” she said. However, many analysts are convinced the abolition of roaming charges will prompt mobile operators to raise their domestic prices to compensate lost profits. Matt Howett, a telecoms analyst at Ovum, told Sky News: “I think there is pressure on operators to prevent them raising prices in any meaningful way, but I think we need to realise that we can’t expect prices to fall forever”.

The European Commission, for its part, sees benefits also for the Telecom industry. In its 2015 explainer the Commission said that ending the habit of putting a smartphone “in airplane mode” when abroad would eventually increase data traffic and so generate new opportunities. “Roaming charges currently teach users to switch off their mobile phone when abroad,” the Commission said. “If they are not afraid of their bills anymore, they will use their devices more regularly when they are travelling — this means more opportunities for online businesses and start-ups to provide services to consumers when they travel in the EU.”

Political relevance for a “Brexit”

The removal of roaming charges follows a nine-year campaign by the European Commission to tackle excessive charges and bring savings for consumers, but it gain also a much more political relevance lately. Indeed the topic became a hot one in the UK, as many are weighing the importance of such opportunities ahead of the “Brexit” referendum next month.

UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron quoted the recent news were an example of why Britain is better off in the EU, as explained in prominent UK media outlet such as The Independent. “EU roaming charges now down to near-zero; gone entirely next year,” a tweet from the PM’s official account read. “Consumers are better off remaining in the EU”, Mr. Cameron posted.

“Better deals within the EU”

Indeed the roaming charges cut by the Commission could have a big impact on the Brexit question, as it is expected that Cameron’s wing will use the changes as part of a campaign to show voters that they would be worse off if they voted to leave the EU. UK’s Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, while interviewed by the Telegraph, showcased “the UK’s influence inside the EU to get a better deal for consumers on roaming charges” – as explained by David Cameron – and questioned what would happen to the roaming charge caps should the UK vote to leave the EU.

“The UK has fought for these cuts to roaming charges which will be a huge boost for families going on holiday this summer”, he said. “But these low rates are only guarantees as long as we are in the EU. Brexit risks meaning that these charges will rise again”, he also warned. “A vote to leave could be a vote for increased mobile phone charges on the Continent and could mean that families are stung by large unexpected charges on holiday”, Mr. Vaizey declared.

“Leave” campaigners disagree

Leave.eu, an organisation campaigning for the Leave vote in the upcoming UK referendum, rejected the idea that the savings on roaming charges would be enough to encourage people to vote against Brexit though. “If David Cameron thinks the British public will vote to stay because they’ll save a few quid on their phone bill, he is seriously deluded,” a spokesperson told The Independent last week. “It just shows how much he and the rest of the Europhile elite are out of touch with ordinary voters”.

Pro-Brexit campaigners are in general convinced that if the UK will leave, the European Union will be able anyway to keep the limits, or to negotiate its own deals with telecommunication companies to secure its user good deals. This last view is more likely to be the final one in case of a Brexit, as measures on roaming charges are not specifically incorporated into any UK regulation, and so will leave the country free to act. However, it’s still important to consider that a Brexit will bring by all means an unprecedented shock wave for both the EU and the British economic models, which will leave no side completely untouched.

The end of roaming charges is a key element of the EU’s effort to create a digital union in Europe, a fundamental step for a full development of the telecommunication system in the bloc. Last week’s news represents a step further towards that goal, although looking at June’s referendum is becoming even more important day after day, especially for UK citizens themselves.

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Climate change brings a host of other risks for businesses

Britain heading to national schism on exit from EU

How has technology changed – and changed us – in the past 20 years?

The anti-vaccine movement shows the peril of a post-truth world

MEPs take stock of the EU’s foreign, security and defence policy priorities

A Sting Exclusive: “Leading by example! EU must push for UN deal to avoid dangerous climate change”, European Parliament Vice-President Ulrike Lunacek cries out from Brussels

How smartphones can close the global skills gap for billions

OECD Donor countries need to reform development finance to meet 2030 pledge

How can we regulate disruptive technologies?

An ageing workforce isn’t a burden. It’s an opportunity

EU climate law: MEPs want to increase emission reductions target to 60% by 2030

Draghi strives to control the unruly exploitation of financial markets by banking leviathans

Ten UN peacekeepers killed in a terrorist attack in northern Mali

Coronavirus: rescEU medical stockpile expands in four Member States

Technology is delivering better access to financial services. Here’s how

Coronavirus: truth and myth on personal risk perception

‘Never give up’: UN chief urges all who serve, marking UN Day

EU steps up aid for Lebanon – European Commissioner for Crisis Management in Beirut

Energy Union: EU’s effort towards a cleaner climate with integrated energy market

Health is nothing but the main consequence of climate change

Could electric vehicles pose a threat to our power systems?

8 fascinating and fearsome frontiers of science you should know about

The banks first to benefit from the new euro trillion ECB plans to print

EU rewards organisations that make eco-innovation pay

“If the job market doesn’t exist, then even the most brilliant Youth Guarantee cannot ensure a job to these young people”, European Youth Forum Secretary General Giuseppe Porcaro on another Sting Exclusive

Comprehensive listening: a tool to humanize Primary Healthcare and medical specialties

How teaching ‘future resilient’ skills can help workers adapt to automation

Traditional finance is failing millennials. Here’s how investing needs to change

Environmental Implementation Review: Commission helps Member States to better apply EU environment rules to protect citizens and enhance their quality of life

Don’t believe the hype: offices are here to stay

Most fish consumers support a ban on fishing endangered species, poll finds

State aid: Commission approves €6 billion Italian schemes to support SMEs affected by coronavirus outbreak

Even in the world’s richest countries, kids might not have what they need to learn at home

Draghi tells the EU Parliament his relaxed policies are here to stay

10th ASEM in Milan and the importance of being one: EU’s big challenge on the way to China

The UK’s River Thames has come back to life – with a seal population to prove it

How leaders can use ‘agile governance’ to drive tech and win trust

On Brexit: the outcome of UK elections next May to be based on false promises?

Brazilian officer a ‘stellar example’ of why more women are needed in UN peacekeeping

‘Grave consequences’ await if new deadly escalation of violence in Gaza continues – top UN official

It is impossible to end HIV without SRHR

Activist investors are more powerful than ever. Here’s what that means for the economy

ECB’s Draghi favours a cheaper euro to serve all Eurozone countries

MEPs and EU ministers agree on closing information gaps to enhance security

The Ecofin Council creates officially the clan of ‘undead’ banks

Strengthen inclusion, participation of people with autism to ‘achieve their full potential’ says UN chief

To save biodiversity, MEPs call for binding targets at global and EU level

3 things you need to know about securing a blockchain

JADE Spring Conference 2018 is on its way: Young entrepreneurs gather in Brussels to shape Europe

Will the end of QE come along with ECB’s inflation target?

Security Council urges ‘maximum restraint’ around Gulf region as Iran and United States trade diplomatic blows in New York

“At the Environment Assembly citizens expect clean, not hot air”, the Head of UN Environment in Europe underscores in a Sting Exclusive

Blockchain is facing a backlash. Can it survive?

Microsoft’s YouthSpark: a kiss of Life to European Youth from the European Parliament

5 ways to net a sustainable future for aquaculture

Financial services: Commission sets out its equivalence policy with non-EU countries

UN ‘determined to lead by example’ on disability rights: Guterres

Parliament backs measures to cut e-commerce VAT fraud

CO2 can be a valuable raw material, not just a climate killer. Here’s how

How the EU crisis hit countries saved the German and French mega-banks from bankruptcy and still pay the costs

More Stings?

Advertising

Trackbacks

  1. […] in all, the truth is that no one knows what a leave vote would bring, and nor can anyonemeasure it. The shockwaves that such a life-changing moment would generate, given the unique nature of it, […]

Leave a Reply to The IMF sees Brexit’s ‘substantial impact’ while the world’s economy holds its breath – Wall Street Newsletter Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s