Quarter of EU travellers switch off to avoid roaming charges


EC survey finds nearly half won’t use mobile web in another EU country; VP Neelie Kroes calls findings ‘shocking’ and says EC ‘must finish the job and eliminate roaming charges’ 

A survey by the European Commission has found that more than a quarter of Europeans traveling outside of their home country switch off their mobiles to avoid roaming charges.

The EC questioned 28,000 people across 15 countries/regions, including 3,290 people in the UK, and said that telecoms companies are missing out on a market of around 300 million phone users because of current pricing strategies.

The survey found that almost half (47 per cent) would never use mobile internet in another country, while only eight per cent use their phone abroad in the same way as at home making a call. Just under a third never make calls when being in another country.

A fifth would text while abroad in the same way as their home country, with a quarter never texting when going to another EU country.

Frequent travellers are more likely to switch off data roaming than the occasional travellers, with 33 per cent and 16 per cent respectively. The EC said this was because frequent travellers are better informed about the real costs of data roaming in Europe, than those who travel less.

Last July, roaming charges dropped by 36 per cent as part of the EU’s plan to gradually cut the cost of using mobiles abroad.

In September, the EC announced that incoming call charges while travelling in the EU will be banned from July 2014, with operators having to choose between offering phone plans that apply across the EU or allowing people to choose a different operator that offers cheaper rates.

European Commission vice president Neelie Kroes 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.

“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.”