back to article UK Government tried to stop EU roaming cap

Documents exposed by The Times show that the UK's Labour government worked tirelessly to try and prevent the EU capping mobile phone roaming rates, a move which cost the industry millions. The documents, consisting largely of emails from civil servants to network operators, show how Britain's chief negotiator reassured BT that …


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  1. voshkin
    Thumb Down

    EU maybe.

    EU roaming charges may be over (about bloody time, if you ask me – UK Vodafone charged me an arm and a leg for calls using Italian.... err Vodafone)

    However, I have a suspicion that it will now cost me £5 per minute to use my phone in non-European countries, e.g. Turley or Russia.

    Roaming charges are ridiculous, not just for Europe – and not just for calls, for SMS too. I am not even contemplating to use data abroad.. One of my customers once used a T-Mobile data card that came free with his Sony laptop to check his emails in Kazakhstan. He later received a £600 bill.

  2. Harry Aldridge

    Stop sitting on the fence!!

    What a neutral article!!!

    I am not so pleased with the caps. As somebody who doesn't travel in Europe that much I am really chuffed at having to foot the extra cost on my domestic bill. You can only support such capping out of self interest, ignorance, or intolerence of consumer choice. This capping is uneccessary regulation and it is very pleasing to see the UK standing up for free competition and choice.

  3. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    UK Govt

    Bunch of corrupt a-holes.

  4. Luther Blissett

    No change here then

    For decades, if anyone vaguely important like an Eire or Norwegian MP, had a query about BNFL and radioactive discarging into the Irish Sea, the UK civil servant who dealt with it simply asked BNFL to write some sort of letter.

    For decades, the top committee at the malign MAFF (now subsumed into DEFRA, but looking like a reverse takeover) was composed largely of agricultural bigwigs.

    Plus ca change. Never confuse suffrage with democracy.

  5. Marco

    Re: Stop sitting on the fence!!

    You are aware that roaming charges were ridiculously high and that telcos practically had established a pricing cartel, making an arm and a leg on roaming?

  6. Charlie Clark Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    @Harry Aldridge: Get your facts straight!

    There were no price increases to domestic bills as long as you did not accept the new roaming tarriffs, which you were under no obligation to. In fact many people who agreed to the new tarriffs too early were fools to as the caps apply to *all* contracts wef. the start of this month.

    Back to the legislation itself: a shining example of the European Commission and Parliament working hand-in-hand against vested interests. The German government was as equally opposed to the charges which is why the Council of Ministers came up with the "compromise" with much higher caps than initially envisaged by the Commission.

    This is the same Commission that took on Microsoft and won and is due to take on the energy fat cats in a bid to provide us with cheaper but more efficiently produced and distributed energy.

  7. gautam

    Screw all !

    Its a classic case of "You Screw my customers and I'll screw yours" when they roam and lets have our cocaine lifestyle with Gordon Brown as a guest. After all he benefitted from the spectrum Auction's largesse backed by mobile Telcos!

    Payback time.

    Consumers ? Who gives a f**k for them?

    Long Live Ripoff Britain.

  8. voshkin

    Harry Aldridge: Stop talking out of your arse

    Since when did the “normal” consumers have to foot the bill for international travellers?

    I know of no person who had their monthly contract go up a single pence – “roamers” or not.

    Free market economy does not imply that the consumer can be shafted as a result of the cartel agreement between the operators.

    Come on, did my example about “roaming” chargers for Vodafone UK customer by Vodafone Italy mean nothing to you?

  9. Bryan B


    It's "non-EU", not "non-European" - Orange UK ripped me £1.30 for a sub-minute call in Norway a little while back, if I remember rightly.

  10. Bob Jones

    Yay, I can call the Roman empire now!

    Great ... I can call the neu Roman Empire for significantly cheaper, talk to the Nazi's in Germany, the socialists in Spain, the a**holes in France but now a call to my local MP, who I actually elected, costs me double ... thank you EU.

  11. Anonymous Coward


    Charlie Clark: "There were no price increases to domestic bills"

    Oh, of course, I'm sure you know the intricate details of all the operators' tarrifs and how they might change in the future.

    voshkin: "Since when did the “normal” consumers have to foot the bill for international travellers?"

    You need to engage your brain here. The operators make lots of money from various sources. It all ends up in the same pot, so if they make less money in one way they'll just make more somewhere else.

    Price controls are stupid, ludicrous and don't work.

    Why do those of you moaning about the charges ever use your phones abroad? Why don't you use a phonebox/landline/pre-pay card/VoIP/whatever? Is it, *shock horror*, that you're actually willing to pay the premium for the convenience?

    So what we've ended up with is some companies getting punished for providing a service which people want. Super.

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  13. Trevor Watt

    Roaming? Buy a local pre-pay SIM

    It is often the case that it is cheaper to buy a local pre-pay SIM and make your calls home with that than it is to use your own operator's roaming service.

    For example in Egypt it costs £1.70 a minute with an O2 phone and each text is 40p, to receive a call costs you £1.65 a minute. With a local SIM (£2.50 if bought locally) it costs 30p a minute to phone the UK, a text is 5p and it costs you nothing for incoming calls. And as it is pre-pay you don't get a scary bill a few weeks later either.

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. The Sceptic
    Black Helicopters

    Why the leaked documents???

    I don't buy it - the cost and effort required to make this work for UK based contracts far out weigh any gains on their current pricing structure. Apart from this, mobile operators have know for at least 2 years this was coming - not unlike the banks being told years in advance their charges would have to be reduced giving them time to get their affairs in order.

    I think what we might be getting here is a leaked sweetener before Europe take something else out of our pockets.

    On a side note, if sensitive government communications are being leaked why aren't the police investigating this - don't all these officials sign the official secrets act?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sensitive document?

    Power does not corrupt, It's just that the corrupt find it much more simple to gain the power (honest people get eaten alive in the struggle).

    Never, never, never trust a person in power. Least of all your own government.

    A civil servent e-mailing a telco is not even vaguely sensitive. Apart from maybe to the companies involved.

    The regulators will keep eyes open and help reduce the cost going on to the domestic bills. Me thinks - I don't have the paperwork to back it up.

    The costs involved in the mobile network is ensuring they have the infrastructure to support the needed bandwidth, more punters making more calls requires extra equipment. It's not the calls that cost - just updating and maintaining the hardware.

    Every time you get a new contract, haggle like hell to drop the price. You will normally win if the offer isn't already good (which does happen;).

  17. Anonymous Coward


    Do it at that URL :)

    I did and have asked it be brought up in Parliament.

  18. Alex


    voshkin said:

    I know of no person who had their monthly contract go up a single pence – “roamers” or not.

    Is it a coincidence that as soon as the roaming cap comes into force, O2 put up their rates to 0845 and 0870 numbers to a whopping 20p/min and exclude them from included minutes? It now cost me £6 to pay my water bill. Great!

    Tip: use alternative numbers:

    More tips here:

  19. Soruk

    @Bryan B

    Orange have brought Norway (and other non-EU European locations like Switzerland, Iceland, Andorra) into their EU-capped tariff. If they're charging you more than this complain that it's higher than the advertised rate on their website.

    From, click on "using your mobile abroad" under "help & support", then click "costs and services abroad" and take a look around.

    Virgin charge their old pre-cap rates for these non-EU Europe locations (30p/60p for pay monthly users, 60p/95p for PAYG). O2 also charge the non-capped rates. Vodafone charge the capped rates (and unlike Orange, also include the Faroes). T-Mobile are charging the capped rates for Iceland and Norway - but not Switzerland.

    Curiously, Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean is also on the capped rate on Orange and Three.

  20. David Beck

    Still using the OneRoam SIMs

    I'm still using my OneRoam SIMs when traveling. PAYG, credit never dies, 27p/min to most european (not just EU) countries, free incoming in most as well. Caller pays 13p/min from the UK to call via a call through number. I put the UK number on voicemail with the OneRoam number in the message. OneRoam is expensive in the US so I just buy a Tracfone when I'm there, calls to the UK and europe cost no more than to US numbers (again via a call through number, Tracfone supplied).

    In the UK I use iSkoot on my Treo (and family Razrs) to make most int'l calls. Data remains a problem so I just use wifi for data when traveling.

  21. Alex



    Réunion is an overseas département of France which is in the EU.

    The Sceptic,

    Heard of the Freedom of Information Act?

  22. Andy Wager
    Dead Vulture


    "£1000+ bill from Vodafone due 5 very brief data-calls while Roaming in the Netherlands!!?!?"

    Very brief but you managed to download 150mb???

    If you are roaming that often then time to get on a proper tariff.

    Appx £120 pm month for (normally) pretty high speed data.

    Covers all my UK usage (about 2gb pm) and any calls to retrieve e-mail with a bit of web surfing. Go over its 4.99 per mb not £10+

    That aside, tariffs are the biggest rip-off for the occassional traveller from the UK and anything which lowers them is OK by me.

  23. voshkin
    Thumb Down


    ""Is it a coincidence that as soon as the roaming cap comes into force, O2 put up their rates to 0845 and 0870 numbers to a whopping 20p/min and exclude them from included minutes? It now cost me £6 to pay my water bill. Great!""

    The ignorance of some people is staggering!!!

    The operators are excluding 08x numbers from free minutes not because of the evil roaming cap, but because of the international call discount numbers.

    For example, I can call Russia for 2p per minute using an 08x number from any landline, or using including minutes from a mobile – all I have to do is call the 08x number, then, after the voice prompt dial the number in Russia.

    Naturally, it does not cost 2p to call Russia from my mobile, not even £1, so guess who I am going to give my money to, and guess who does not want to lose the revenue stream from me?

    P.S. who in their right mind will call the water board using their mobile anyway? Ever heard of landlines?

  24. Law

    Harry Aldridge = Idiot!!

    You moron.... that enough away from the fence for you??

    In the theme of the message, the flame icon is selected! ;)

  25. The Sceptic

    No excuse for ignorance dear chap ;-D


    (a) the appropriate records authority receives a request for information which relates to information which is, or if it existed would be, contained in a transferred public record, and

    (b) either of the conditions in subsection (2) is satisfied in relation to any of that information,"

    I feel the need to highlight that simply an event happening is not enough to make it a available to the public. There is a process where by the information is deemed available for public viewing.

    The period of time for the process required to make the information available exceeds the possibility of recent and current events being leaked - in theory.


  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cartel ? Check perfume analogy.

    In my opinion, cartel is a very polite word for this hideous operators.

    All the arguments above regarding Building networks, maintainanace etc is hogwash, since they are all sunken costs,long recovered against taxes many years ago. So its just maintainance at best and supporting the services (which are mostly outsourced already) at sweatshop rates.(barring a few new masts being built).Dont most of them claim 98 of the country already covered?

    If anything, maintainance is extremely low on these type of services, since NO street/cables to be dug, wires connected to Junction boxes, copper wires to the home etc etc. Its a very hollow argument either way one looks. By this reasoning, BT should be charging more for landline calls rather than Mobile telcos, due to their overhead costs. Yet they are making a pile.

    So WTF are mobile Telcos screwing everyone? Corporate Greed at its worst manifestation.

    Reminds of the perfume marketing Analogy in a Time Magazine report long ago.


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