James Carroll dials into the latest developments in pricing and roaming charges in the Irish mobile phone market.
The mobile phone operator, Three Ireland, has announced that bill-pay customers on their ‘All You Can Eat’ data plan will not be able to avail of the same offer while travelling in the EU, despite the abolition within the EU of roaming charges.
On 1 March 2017, Three also informed customers that there will be a €5 increase in their monthly bill from the start of next month.
Nearly one million bill pay customers will be affected by the price rise, which will come into effect on 3 April.
This is not the first time the phone operator has increased their prices. Shortly after Three purchased O2 in 2015, they increased customers’ bills by 25 percent.
“This is the first time that Three has revised the cost of its core portfolio in a number of years. These changes are a direct result of the increase in costs of doing business.
Three, which controls 40 percent of the mobile phone market in Ireland, sent letters to customers outlining the changes in their contracts.
“This is the first time that Three has revised the cost of its core portfolio in a number of years,” a Three spokesperson said in a statement to The City.
“These changes are a direct result of the increase in costs of doing business. Notwithstanding the revisions, we still offer some of the most competitive plans on the market that are affordable and offer real value to our customers.”
Roaming charges are based upon the amount phone operators charge one another when their customers use their phones abroad.
The abolition of roaming charges within the EU was agreed in June 2015 after a long process of negotiation. The EU has also agreed new regulations for the wholesale roaming market where mobile phone operators trade with one another.
Since 2007, the price of roaming charges has reduced by 90 percent within the EU.
“Europeans have been calling and waiting for the end of roaming charges as well as for net neutrality rules,” said Andrus Ansip, Commission Vice-President for the Digital Single market.
“They have been heard. We still have a lot of work ahead of us to create a Digital Single Market. Our plans to make it happen were fully endorsed by Heads of State and Government last week, and we should move faster than ever on this.”
Many Europeans complained that they were being overcharged by their mobile operators when using their phones abroad.
The ‘Roam like Home’ agreement will be implemented from 15 June 2017. In practice, the new rules mean that customers will pay the same price to use their mobile when travelling in the EU as they would at home.
— WhyEurope (@why_europe) March 17, 2017
While holidaymakers will benefit from the change, it does come at a cost to mobile phone operators. However, it seems that Irish mobile operators may have found a way around this.
Three has altered the terms of the contract by changing ‘All You Can Eat Data’ from part of the “core plan” to a “service benefit”.
According to the Irish Independent, the amount of data available abroad to Three customers will vary from 1GB to 7GB depending on their monthly bill pay plan. Customers who exceed their data allowance could face charges of €60 per GB of data used.
According to RTE, mobile operator Eir has confirmed that existing customers will not face additional charges for using their mobile phone while travelling in the EU. Customers will be able to use their call and text allowances with 1GB of data.
In a statement on their website, Comreg said they were aware that a “mobile operator has recently informed its customers of new contractual arrangements that purport to draw a distinction between a contractual data allowance and an unlimited all-you-can-eat-data “service benefit”. “
We have sought information from the operator concerned so that we can assess whether the operator is in compliance with its existing obligations, as well as with the new roaming rules that will come into force on 15 June.”
“We will not say anything more about this matter until we can do so without prejudicing our compliance function,” they added.
What can customers do?
Under EU regulations, customers who do not accept change to the terms of their contract have the right to withdraw without penalty. They must give sufficient notice to their mobile phone operator before the date that the change comes into effect.
Comreg offer a price comparison service on their website to help customers compare the cost of personal and business mobile price plans.
Feature image by James Carroll