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Roaming costs lose mobile operators 300 million users

Jennifer Scott

Mobile operators could be missing out on revenues from 300 million customers due to roaming charges putting them off using their phones abroad.

A new survey from the European Commission showed 94% of the 280,000 EU citizens it interviewed would limit use of their mobiles to avoid the cost when in another European state, which the EC calculated would amount to 300 million citizens across the continent.

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A significant 47% of respondents said they would never use their mobile in another EU country and 33% of regular travellers said they turned off mobile data altogether when crossing a border.

While more people were willing to use SMS – 20% said they would continue texting as if in their home nation – a quarter also said they would never text when in a differing EU country.

Vice-president of the European Commission, Neelie Kroes, said: "It’s not just a fight between holiday-makers and telecoms companies. Millions of businesses face extra costs because of roaming, and companies like app makers lose revenue too. Roaming makes no sense in a single market – it’s economic madness.”

The EC and Kroes have been leading the charge when it comes to reducing the cost of roaming across the EU. The Commission began capping the amount mobile operators could charge for calls, texts and data from 2009, but Kroes is determined to cut them entirely by the next European elections.

“There is no other sector of our incomplete European single market where the barriers are so unneeded, and yet so high,” said Kroes in a speech to the European Parliament last year. “The time for change is now.”

In June 2013, a group of 27 European Commissioners voted to end roaming charges altogether by July 2014, but the current timetable sees the charges reducing more rather than being abolished altogether.

Kroes, who is in her last year as the Commissioner in charge of the digital agenda, said: “I am honestly shocked by these figures. It shows we have to finish the job and eliminate roaming charges. Consumers are limiting their phone use in extreme ways and this makes no sense for the companies either.”


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