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'roam like at home'

Download your free copy of ECC Ireland’s June eBulletin

Remember the days when you’d be so fearful of anyone texting you, or God forbid calling, when you’re busy scorching yourself on a beach and sipping cocktails somewhere? After a decade of work Thursday, June 15th, was the date when new ‘roam like at home’ rules came into force meaning that  all the worry about ‘shock bills’ should be a thing of the past with consumers now paying domestic prices for calls, texts and data when travelling in the EU/EEA.

We will also take a quick look at some other consumer news such as the statement by BEUC, The European Consumer Organisation, welcoming the new roaming rules, the European Commission’s analysis of EU consumer rights, and the power outage that grounded British Airways flights.

This month’s eBulletin also has a consumer success story of the month which involves an Irish consumer successfully getting a full refund for a damaged jacket folllowing the intervention of ECC. The consumer query of the month is from a consumer who was left rather confused about roaming charges following conflicting advice from his mobile operator.

To find out more read on below or download your free copy of ECC Ireland’s June 2017 eBulletin.

 

'roam like at home'

 

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‘Roam like at home’ calls and texts and better EU data roaming

It’s been a long time coming but finally, ‘roam like at home’ is here meaning that you can make calls and send texts the same as you would at home and you also have a certain amount of EU roaming data allowance to use before any additional charges kick in. Alright, so your roaming data may not be exactly the same as it is at home (it really depends on your contract) but consumers are in a hell of a lot better position then they were before June 15th, and more is yet to come.

That’s right folks, you no longer have to give the ‘only ring in emergencies’ or ‘text me at your peril’ warning to friends and family or be plagued, as much, by the big question – ‘do I leave mobile data on, or off?’ We’ve all been there, and we all got it wrong – queue bill with extra charges (puts a dampener on the holiday to say the least).

It must be noted however that the new rules are not meant to be used for permanent roaming so you must use your phone more at home than abroad in order to avail of the ‘roam like at home’, otherwise the operator can charge you for roaming.

Okay, so what do the new rules mean I hear you ask? There’s certainly been a bit of confusion out there, particularly in relation to data which is, to be quite honest, quite complicated but hopefully this eBulletin will help make things a bit clearer and certainly point you in the right direction if you’ve further questions about what your roaming entitlements are.

 

Making calls and sending texts while roaming

When it comes to calls and text it’s simple – you get exactly the same as you do when you’re chatting or texting friends and family at home. Your calls and texts will be counted against your national volume of minutes or texts allowed, hence the phrase ‘roam like at home’. It all really depends on the bundle/contract you have. So, if you’ve unlimited calls and texts as part of your bundle then you’ll get unlimited calls and texts when you’re roaming in the EU/EEA.

‘Roam like at home’ means exactly that – it covers calls from abroad to family and friends, calls within the visited country (for example, to a taxi, hotel, or friends also in that country), and calls to another EU country while roaming (for example, a hotel at your next destination country when travelling or another friend spending holidays in another EU country than you).

So that’s calls and texts – easy peasy. Now for the hard bit!

 

Data charged at domestic prices and fair usage policy

When it comes to data things are a bit different. Like calls and texts, the megabytes of data that a person consumes abroad within the EU will be charged at domestic prices, i.e. the same price as it would if you were using it at home, up to a certain limit which depends on the type of contract you have.

Contract with unlimited data or very cheap mobile data

If a consumer has a contract that includes unlimited data or very cheap mobile data at home, the operator may apply a safeguard, or otherwise known as fair usage policy, to limit data use when roaming. However, in these circumstances the operator still has to provide the consumer with a large volume of ‘roam like at home’ data.

The amount of this data depends on your mobile bundle/contract. You should have already received correspondence from your operator already about your data allowance but if you haven’t make sure to ask what your specific allowance is and perhaps how it has been calculated.

data roaming EU

Time for the math!

As already stated, the amount of data allowance for EU ‘roam like a home’ will be different depending on the contract and what/how you pay but here is the formula that serves as a general rule of thumb for how the operator has calculated the fair usage policy (mentioned above).

The roaming data volume you should get must be at least twice the volume obtained by dividing the price of your mobile bundle (excluding VAT) by €7.70. In case you’re wondering (I’m sure you dying to know), the €7.70 is the maximum price that your operator has to pay the foreign operator (the operator that provides the service in the EU/EEA country you are visiting) for 1 GB of data. You may actually get more that this but this is the minimum.

For example: If at home, you have a mobile bundle including unlimited calls, texts, and data for €35 excluding VAT when you’re roaming in the EU you will get unlimited calls, texts and at least 9.1 GB of data. So that’s €35 divided by 7.70 and multiplied by 2 to get 9.1.

Other data scenarios:

If your operator has not explicitly informed you of a roaming data limit, you can benefit while abroad from the full amount of data under your domestic contract.

The operator is only entitled to apply a ‘roam like at home’ data limit in 2017 in case you pay less than €3.38 per GB of data used (in 2018 less than €3 per GB, in 2019 less than €2.25 per GB). Again, the actual limit depends on the monthly amount you pay for your mobile contract.

For example, if your bundle at home includes unlimited calls, texts, and a set 3 GB of data for €25 excluding VAT. If you divide €25 by 3GB it equals €8.3 per GB which is not less than the cut off of €3.38 (explained in paragraph above). In this case you will therefore be entitled to ‘roam like a home’ with unlimited calls and texts and 3 GB of data, exactly as you would when you’re at home.

In contrast to that, if you have a bundle that includes unlimited calls, texts and a set 10 GB of data for €25 excluding VAT then the calculation of €25 divided by 10 GB of data equals €2.5 per GB which is less than the stated threshold of €3.38 per GB of data. So, with this contract when you’re travelling in the EU you can get ‘roam like a home’ for calls and texts and at least 6.5 GB of data when the fair usage policy is applied (€25 divided by €7.70 GB of data multiplied by two – fair usage policy).

 

Notification of your ‘roam like at home’ limit and what happens if you exceed it

By now, your operator should have informed you about ‘roam like at home’ data allowance and how your contract will be affected, for example if the fair usage policy applies. If you don’t know about your data allowance for roaming then it is strongly advised to contact your operator to double check making sure to not only ask how much GBs you can use when roaming but also what happens if you exceed it. You can also check the operator’s website where information should be provided.

When you’re abroad the ‘roam like at home’ will be the default roaming tariff on all plans that include roaming so in these cases you will be switched over automatically. The data allowance should be sufficient for most roaming needs but if you do exceed that limit your operator should send you an alert telling you this and the charges that will apply on further data consumption.

The extra charges that apply when you exceed ‘roam like at home’ limits are:

  • 2 cents per minute for voice calls made (plus VAT)
  • 1 cent per SMS (plus VAT)
  • €7.70 per GB of data (plus VAT) which is less than 1 cent per MB.

 

But there’s still extra charges! How is that good for consumers?

You may be asking yourself but there’s still charges if you go beyond the limit in your contract so is it really an end to roaming charges? For calls and texts you will be getting the same as you would at home whereas before you were charged extra, even when you didn’t make the call yourself and just received it, so yes, unless you dramatically change your roaming habits and go absolutely bananas ringing and texting everyone you can think of, then you should not be faced with the same hefty bills as before.

You may still be suspicious of the ‘roam like at home’ data allowance limit. Well, think of it this way, before June 15th you didn’t automatically get EU roaming data and usually had to pay extra for this privilege or get is as part of a special deal or something, so again, there’s a major saving for consumers there. Granted, depending on your contract, you may not get all the data that you do at home but you get a significant amount, enough to act as a sort of a safety net and which allows you to not have to completely rely on the WiFi hunt when out and about in another EU country.

Obviously, as there’s a limit to data charged at domestic prices consumers need to be wise about their usage. It’s okay to use your mobile data for example when you’re lost and need to use Google Maps, look something up, or even quickly post on social media (don’t go nuts though) but it’s not good to use this data for streaming or downloading as this will use up a significant chunk of your precious data. So, while you should not be afraid of logging onto your favourite social media app make sure to not spend too much time on it, and make sure to log out – check out this Irish Times article that can give you an idea of data consumption of apps. If you want to download and stream while on holidays then best use the Wi-Fi at the hotel/resort just in case.

So, in a nutshell, use Wi-Fi when and where you can and you still have your EU ‘roam like at home’ data allowance for backup and for when you’re on the move.

 

What to do if you have problems with ‘roam like at home’ and charges?

If you have problems with the new ‘roam like at home’ charges it is advised to contact your operator, who should have a complaints procedure in place. You can also contact the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg) which is the competent enforcement body – 01 8049668 or consumerline@comreg.ie.

More information on roaming:

You can find out more information about roaming on the European Commission’s website here.

There’s also a roaming factsheet and frequently asked questions which may help shed more light on the subject.

 

Here’s a video from the European Commission:

 

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Other consumer news:

  • BEUC, The European Consumer Organisation, issued a press release recently welcoming the end to roaming charges but warned that regulators and national consumer groups will be keeping a close eye on how telecom operators implement the new rules. Read more about it here.
  • The European Commission recently published a report which showed that although EU consumer rights are strong there is still room for improvement. The Commission outlined steps it will be taking to further improve consumer rights and make it fit for the digital age. Read more about it here.
  • British Airways didn’t have a very good time of it lately after a power failure led to a widespread shutdown of its systems affecting the flights of thousands of passengers. Apparently, an engineer had disconnected a power supply at Heathrow – oops! The usual go-to of ‘oh sure I’ll just turn it off and on’ doesn’t always work it seems. Oh dear, that was one expensive mistake. Here’s an article in The Guardian and another in The Irish Times in case you missed it.
  • The new toy craze seems to be fidget spinners – they’re everywhere! Well, it seems around 200,000 fidget spinners were seized and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is concerned that some of the products do not meet minimum EU product safety standards. For more on this read this Irish Times article.

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Consumer success story of the month:

An Irish consumer bought a jacket while holidaying in Italy, however when he got home to Ireland he noticed that there was damage to the leather around the pocket area. As the jacket was quite expensive (€490) and fearing that the damage would only get worse over time, the consumer emailed the trader in Italy to highlight the issue. He subsequently returned the jacket and asked for replacement but the trader instead sent the same damaged jacket back. The consumer then asked for a full refund of the jacket and reimbursement of the additional cost of postage but received no reply.

After getting in contact with ECC Ireland the case was forwarded to colleagues in Italy who got in contact with the trader to highlight the damage caused to the expensive jacket, the failure to provide a satisfactory replacement and the inconvenience caused. The trader responded by stating that it is unable to replace the jacket due to stocking issues and would instead refund the consumer in full once the jacket was returned. The consumer was delighted to confirm that all the money paid by him was refunded.

 

Consumer query of the month:

Q: I’m planning to travel to The Netherlands but I’m concerned about the new roaming rules. Can I make local calls while in The Netherlands and what data allowance would I have? I’ve tried ringing the customer service team of my mobile operator but I’ve been given three different answers. The first told me that I could only make calls back to Dublin or to another EU country (but not locally) and that I would only have 3GB worth of data. The second adviser said I would only be given 2GB of data. The final adviser said I’d only be given 4GB now but this would increase to 8GB three weeks following the implementation of the new rules. Can they do that, can they delay the implementation of the data allowance?

A: ‘Roam like at home’ rules start from June 15th and so it will apply to the call, texts, and data of your contract from that date. When it comes to making calls locally, you will be able to ring from your Irish mobile to a local number and this will be counted against the minutes allowed on your contract just like if you were using your phone at home.

 

In relation to data, your mobile phone operator should have informed you about your data allowance ahead of the new rules coming into effect. The amount of data that is subject to ‘roam like at home’ depends on the type of contract you have so it is important to get full clarification in written format (email, text) about your data allowance. Changes to your data allowance, due to ‘roam like at home’ rules, start from June 15th onwards. If you feel that the mobile operator has not been consistent with the advice given or is not implementing the rules properly then you can contact the national enforcement body ComReg.

 

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If you want more information about this or any other cross-border consumer issue, please contact us on 01 8797 620 or go to www.eccireland.ie. You can also follow us on Twitter.

Martina Nee

Press and Communications Officer

The European Consumer Centre is part of the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-Net), which covers 30 countries (all EU countries plus Norway and Iceland), and offers a free and confidential information and advice service to the public on their rights as consumers, assisting customers with cross-border disputes. ECC Ireland is funded by the European Commission and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, the European Consumer Centre cannot be held responsible for matters arising from any errors or omissions contained in this publication. The information provided is intended as a guide only and not as a legal interpretation.

© 2017 – European Consumer Centre (Ireland) Ltd, MACRO Centre, 1 Green Street, Dublin 7. Company limited by guarantee in Ireland, No. 367035 – Registered Charity No. 20048617 – CHY14708.

This ebulletin is part of the action 670695 – ECC-Net IE FPA which has received funding under a grant for an ECC action from the European Union’s Consumer Programme (2014-2020).

The content of this ebulletin represents the views of the author only and it is his/her sole responsibility; it cannot be considered to reflect the views of the European Commission and/or the Consumers, Health, Agriculture, and Food Executive Agency or any other body of the European Union. The European Commission and the Agency do not accept any responsibility for use that may be made of the information it contains.

 

Competition and consumer protection commission