back to article Steelie Neelie 'shocked' that EU tourists turn mobes off when abroad

Nearly half of European tourists say they would never use mobile internet in another EU country and over a quarter turn off their mobiles altogether over fears of monstrous phone bills when they get home. The European Commission, which is trying to get roaming charges abolished, surveyed 28,000 EU citizens and reckon that …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Funny thing is

    I live down in Weymouth, I know people who work on Portland. I, and people I know have occasionally been charged 'roaming charges' for going to portland because, for some reason, they get a stronger signal from a french base station, than they do from the nearest UK one. I've had to show my dad how to turn off roaming on his phone, (which he has in turn shared with his colleagues) otherwise he'd have no way of contacting people during the day without risking additional charges.

    Same thing happening near the white cliffs of dover apparently.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Funny thing is

      It's surprising it works from that distance, but that's IMHO more an indication that your local signal is weak than one of malicious intent.

      I recall that this issue hit politics in the Netherlands and Belgium where people living close to the border paid through the nose because their mobiles hopped across the border for connectivity. I think this eventually hit the EU right of free movement principle, and the companies were ordered to invent some sort of middle zone - virtually extending the border so that even when a mobile logged on abroad, it was billed at local rates (which is not that hard to do as you have a fairly accurate idea where the phone is by triangulation anyway).

      So cut a long story short (belatedly :) ), there are solutions for that, you just have to find the right lever to force the companies to put some effort in...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Funny thing is

        Well, the border between the Netherlands and Belgium is a bit mad in places.

        i.e. Baarle-Hertog/Baarle-Nassau - which was probably the inspiration for China Mieville's "The City and The City"...

        1. mdava

          Re: Funny thing is

          I loved the idea behind that book - fantastic example of using a pervasive concept so mundane that nobody notices it.

      2. TeeCee Gold badge

        Re: Funny thing is

        and the companies were ordered to invent some sort of middle zone - virtually extending the border so that even when a mobile logged on abroad, it was billed at local rates

        They may well have been ordered to do it but I can confirm that, when this happens, it gets expensive.

    2. Horridbloke

      Re: Funny thing is

      I once got a "Welcome to the Isle of Man" roaming text whilst in Wales (Amlwch to be exact).

      1. Smartini

        Re: Funny thing is

        I once got a 'Welcome to Iceland' message when I woke up one morning after an overnight English channel ferry crossing. There was confusion in those first terrifying moments of post-slumber. I guess the ship's pico-cell had been misconfigured.

        1. TeeCee Gold badge

          Re: Funny thing is

          I once got a 'Welcome to Iceland' message when I woke up one morning after an overnight English channel ferry crossing.

          Usually when that happens it's because you're still on the ship and Iceland is outside the nearest porthole. You'll also be extremely hungover, stark bollock naked and supposed to be getting married that day.

          1. Charles 9

            Re: Funny thing is

            Can one actually SEE Iceland from the English Channel?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Funny thing is

              I can, there's an icelands just down the street, just gotta get the right angle.

    3. Measurer

      Re: Funny thing is

      I'm a Weymouth/Portland lad too, and back in the 90's my Nokia brick used to regularly connect to Orange Francais etc. when I was fishing off Portland Bill. Alas, stuck up in Bristol now to get a decent wage.

    4. David Cantrell

      Re: Funny thing is

      It happens occasionally on the beaches between Seaford and Eastbourne too. Whenever I get hit with those roaming charges I gripe at my cellco and they give me a refund.

    5. Squander Two

      Re: Funny thing is

      In Lindau, Germany, you can just sit at a cafe and your mobile will get a new "Welcome to" message every couple of minutes as it picks up signals from three different countries.

  2. Refugee from Windows

    It's not phone calls, it's data

    They really charge silly money for data, and with scare stories of paying hundreds of pounds to update Twitbook or Facer (or something), no wonder it gets switched off. Also if you get one of those "updates" that could also kill your wallet. Hence smartphone stays off.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

      There has been a cap of € 50 per month for roaming charges in the EU for some years now that you have to explicitly ask to be remove. So, if anyone is being hit wit hundreds then it's most likely their own fault.

      1. Alan Watson

        Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

        But let's be fair, most people wouldn't want to get hit for €50 because their phone was updating weather forecasts in the background, so it's safer to disable data roaming altogether.

        And as you can generally get WiFi at airports and hotels, often free, it's probably no great hardship for most either. The big threat is that if people realise it doesn't matter that they aren't instantly notified when a stranger makes an inane comment about their rather dull photo on facebook they might re-engage with real life, and then where would we all be?

    2. wolfetone Silver badge

      Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

      I used to work for a company based in the UK that sold "Travel SIM Cards" to the USA. The idea being that if you're an American and you wanted to travel Europe or other places you'd stick this SIM card in and use it.

      It wasn't uncommon for a user to have a $80,000 phone bill at the end of their 2 week holiday. The primary cause was the data. To use this company's plan it would cost you $2.05/MB. I'm not even making it up.

      The best thing though is that they justify the cost by saying they do a lot of work in Malawi. They do some good work, but I don't think it justifies robbing the people using their service. If you'd like more information on the company (I don't think I should type their name outright), just Google "International Cell Phones and World Phones" and they will be in the top two.

      1. Danny 14

        Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

        And for the telco it would be better having 10000 people hitting the €50 cap than 100000 paying only €2 or €3 reasonable rates.

      2. asdf

        Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

        >The idea being that if you're an American

        I guess the one advantage to most Americans staying in America is they don't have to deal with this. You can drive 3000 miles and still be on the same network (unless your on a GSM network like T-Mobile or AT&T and then you do have to watch roaming). Yes yes I know the disadvantages quite well and am glad I spent time working in Europe (seeing in many ways how backwards some things we do/have) but damn is it nice to be home.

        1. cambsukguy

          Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

          I was on a trip and met a Canadian who had his network off. Upon being asked why, since he couldn't get texts or know someone need to speak to him, he said that texts cost him money to receive and, given how many he would receive, he had no choice but to disable his entire mobile network until he was home again.

          He also paid insane amounts for his contract compared to the UK.

          Talk about a scam!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

            > I was on a trip and met a Canadian who had his network off.

            <sigh> It is all true. In Canada and the US, you have to *pay* to receive calls, even cold calls.

            That's one of the reasons why cold calls on your mobile are so annoying here: they cost you money.

            1. Charles 9

              Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

              They made up for it by offering flat-rate pricing for calls, then for texts. Once you're flat, you stop caring. Data's only starting to go there but some of the data allowances can be generous.

    3. cambsukguy

      Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

      If it is a *smart* phone then the "no roaming" feature may be left on permanently or at least until a text is sent and acknowledged that allows reasonable data for a reasonable charge (thinking of 3 EU for 100MB on Orange last time I went to Europe).

      Turning the phone off seems drastic since texts may be received for nothing and sent for smallish amounts - not to mention the usefulness of using WiFi to give back a lot of expected functionality.

      The battery-save feature on my phone can be turned on to disallow *all* non-explicit use of data. This means that one can chat in an app like Skype/Whatsapp but nothing unsolicited can come in, like updates etc. - helps control the data use (and increases battery life).#

      1. Colin Miller

        Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

        On Android the top swipe menu lets you turn off "Mobile Data". You can still send/receive calls and txts (not sure about MMS, but I suspect it's no-send, and receive notifications only), but all apps are blocked, until you turn it back on or connect to a WiFi point.

    4. John Tserkezis

      Re: It's not phone calls, it's data

      But it *can* be phone calls. Before data was a regular part of everyone's diet, roaming only affected phone calls. You tell your carrier you're travelling to whatever country, and they'll happily and easily rig it up for you. You realise why it was so quick and easy when you get home. Three bucks a minute for starters - for any phone call. anywhere anyhow.

      It was unlikely to turn in to a ten thousand dollar shocker, but not that far from it either. A couple of grand is still *entirely* unreasonable.

      The ONLY incentive that carriers have to change their roaming rates, is money. If their customers are stupid enough to use it as-is, then great, they pay. If their customers bail out and use another carrier, then they have incentive to bring the prices down - better to have some money, than none at all.

      One thing for sure, government, lobby groups, or that weirdo on their soapbox aren't going to make ANY difference at all - what the carriers are doing isn't against the law, not even near that end.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I grudgingly pay my 3£/5Eu a day

    I grudgingly pay my 3£/5Eu a day and swear madly when I notice that I have forgotten to turn roaming data off when going outside the Eu.

    Technically the capability for voice was in there since the dawn of GSM. When roaming you get a temporary ISDN number for any calls and ISDN allows "redirect/divert" so no calls travel remotely. It was quite deliberately turned off my all mobile providers for years to ensure a feeble technical justification for highway robbery.

    Data is a bit different, but doable too. In any case, in the days when anything is packet and fiber has been laid down to even the most remote bits of Eu the whole argument is moot. It does not matter if you trombone the data 3 times, cost is still negligible.

    1. Aitor 1

      Re: I grudgingly pay my 3£/5Eu a day

      Only that they don't if they don't want to.

      The situation is: they charge you like 0,01p per MB to you as a client, and about 5 pounds to everybody else. Noy they decided they could charge 20p.

      This is what monopolies create.

    2. Lyndon Hills 1

      Re: I grudgingly pay my 3£/5Eu a day

      I seem to remember a case where people were being charged international rates for calls that terminated in London. The numbers were international format (i.e 0031 or whatever), and it didn't make any cost difference to the telco where the number was physically located. Similar to 0898 numbers i suppose, they don't actually cost any more to provision, they just cost more to call.

  4. Sander van der Wal

    Two words

    Free WiFi.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

      Re: Two words

      Except that "Free" is an serious piece of misdirection that should not be allowed under advertising rules. If it was truly free you would not have to pay for it with personal data.

      Let me quote you an example, directly from The Cloud:

      "Your use of the Services is reliant on you providing us with authorisation for the use of your information as set out in this notice. If you withdraw your authorisation, from us at any time, we will remove access to the Service until you refresh your consent.


      You can choose not to receive marketing information and the Services from the Cloud by writing to Data Protection Compliance Officer, Third Floor, Victoria Square, St Albans, AL1 3TF.

      You can also choose not to receive marketing information and the Services via the 'unsubscribe' link in marketing communications we send you.

      Any choices you make will be held separately from any marketing preferences you may have given to Sky and any of its Affiliates.

      Well spotted if you missed something in there: you may be able to opt out of some marketing, but not from all of it. To me, this makes all the statements about it being "free" quite simply lies.

      Your personal data has value, so be careful with it using it as a currency to pay for "free" services. If the data leaks, you will pay forever because you cannot change who you are.

      1. monkeyfish

        Re: Two words

        Who said anything about Sky? 'Free' wi-fi can usually be found in your hotel or a coffee shop. Your probably going to visit those places on holiday anyway, so why not make use of it?

      2. Sander van der Wal
        Big Brother

        Re: Two words

        Don't go on holiday in the UK then. The weather is miserable anyway. Clouds everywhere.

      3. Nick Ryan Silver badge

        Re: Two words

        Your personal data has value, so be careful with it using it as a currency to pay for "free" services. If the data leaks, you will pay forever because you cannot change who you are.

        The "personal data" that these providers tend to receive from me consists of an entirely separate and unused email address along with whatever other arbitrary and entirely fictional information I am forced to supply at the time. And I'll definitely never install their "helper" apps that appear to exist solely to fuck things up and liberate more information.

        1. Danny 14

          Re: Two words


          Maybe for you but what about aunty mabel, uncle fred, my mum etc. They barely know how to operate their own email (jebus, my father in law is STILL using an old supanet webmail account from the days he had dialup.)

          The fact is it isnt free and not available everywhere. Plus have you tried to use free wifi in theme parks? Sometimes you have to use phone data (granted the cells are usually just as croweded in theme parks too although disneyland seem to cope ok)

          Typically I use a cheap "holiday sim" if im going somewhere, generally for a €10 I have enough to hotspot my phone for a holiday.

    2. The BigYin

      Re: Two words

      Not in all countries. In Germany, for example, the operator is responsible for all activity on their network; so free wi-fi is a rare thing indeed.

      Outside of the UK I disable roaming data, never make calls, never take calls and only use texts if I absolutely have to.

      1. JurassicPark

        Re: Two words

        I disable roaming data, never make calls, never take calls

        ...err, why bother taking your phone with you at all then?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Two words

          > ...err, why bother taking your phone with you at all then?

          Alarm clock function.

          1. kpanchev

            Re: Two words

            Who needs alarm clock on a holiday???

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Roaming makes no sense in a single market – it’s economic madness."

    Agreed, but would also add:

    "Different charges / rules for the same content based on where you are in the EU makes no sense in a single market - it's economic madness"

    Good luck with telling that to the football thieves - sorry, "owners of territory-based football rights within the EU 'single market' - that no EU person has the * to take on. </rant>

  6. Fihart

    Single market.

    What part of that do the telcos not understand ?

    Well, perhaps the word market as they obviously operate a cartel.

    Witness Vodaphone-sponsored UK Gov opposition to previous cuts in roaming costs -- many UK civil servants jumped ship from regulating telcos to working for them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Single market.

      What part of that do the telcos not understand ?

      The bit that says they should somehow agree to making fewer profits. Telco's are dreadfully inefficient because they have always been making serious money as monopolies or quasi monopolies - I cannot see them trim that fat because it's almost embedded in their processes.

      Having said that, there is something for the argument that they should be allowed to recoup investment in new services (although not in 1 year if the tariffs are anything to go on), so here is my proposal:

      Give people 3G at a sensible speed for the one charge that rules it all (as long as they're in Europe). If anyone wants it faster (4G to nG), fair enough, let that be sold at a premium for a couple of years (maybe every time they upgrade, drop the "old" version into flat fee EU roaming). Personally, I'm OK with 3G but I can see that some people need more, and somehow this investment has to be paid for or innovation will slow to a crawl.

      Witness Vodaphone-sponsored UK Gov opposition to previous cuts in roaming costs -- many UK civil servants jumped ship from regulating telcos to working for them

      That's not exactly a new event. Microsoft pretty much walked into UK government after someone who originally worked at a high level joined them, even though the previous government set out on a course based on Open Source and Open Standards - they're only now recovering that direction. Naturally, that person did very well out of it...

      However, this doesn't always have to point at something insidious. Given how complex government can get, it makes sense for companies to get hold of an insider.

  7. Khaptain Silver badge

    What does she expect

    The Telcos have been "stealing" money from punters for long and weary with these damned "roaming" charges which represent no value whatsoever for the client.

    Since I live/work on the French/Swiss border I am only too aware of what it means to forget to turn off roaming- my bills remind me very quickly . Like many people that live/work around the European borders there are few solutions.

    1 : Possess two telephones, one for each country.

    2 : Turn off roaming on all phones.

    3 : Have dual SIM cards.

    4 : Pretend that Europe doesn't actually exist and that France /Switzerland are actually Beelions of Kms apart and that that is the justification for the excessive charges...

    Anything but anything to avoid those charges which are nothing more than pure and utter theft.

    And it makes no difference whatsover that I use Orange France and Orange Switzerland for both contracts, it appears that Orange doesn't actually speak to it's fellow Europeans counterparts/subsidiries unless of course they are fixing the roaming charges..

    It cost me almost nothing to use my "landline" to phone 60 odd countries in the world and yet it costs me the price of a leasing a small car to phone my neighbours ( 2kms away) when I use the mobile phone.... go figure..

    What's the point in having One Europe. Why can't we have One Physical Network, ie all the operators share the same masts/technology, they all provide the same services anyway and completely eradicate the ramiog charges once and for all.

    C'mon Neely, push the laws into effect NOW. Stop the bribes and backhanders and show us that Europe really is a community.

    [Rant off]

    1. aBloke FromEarth

      Re: What does she expect

      I heard rumour that CERN (its campus straddles the Franco-Swiss border) tried to solve the issue by making a deal with a Swiss provider. They got the telco to put a cell or two on the French side of the campus so that they wouldn't get stung by roaming charges just for getting a push message while they popped down to the canteen for a coffee and a croissant.

      Mind you, it is very good coffee, so it's almost worth the roaming charges :)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What does she expect

      Last time I looked, Switzerland wasn't in the European Union so it might as well be beelions of miles (or should that be kilometres) away!

  8. Filippo Silver badge

    Unwanted roaming data

    During a trip to Portugal, my GF was surprised to find a few €s in data roaming charges, when she had disabled data roaming on her phone before leaving.

    Turns out that due to some kind of bug in Android, there can be a small window of time, right after connecting to the network, during which the phone is connected to the network, but it doesn't know it's roaming. If the phone decides to download an update at this point, sure enough it will download until it figures out it's roaming.

    Yeah, I know - I wouldn't believe it either, but I saw this happen with my own eyes. I googled the issue, and I'm not the only one either. I don't know what versions of Android are affected; the phone in question was 2.3.

  9. Immenseness

    There are other reasons for not using a phone on holiday

    Some holidaymakers want a holiday away from people who pester them day and night at home, and away from electronic gadgets that interrupt relaxation and pester for attention every few minutes. I quite happily choose to switch the phone off when I am on holiday and just turn it on once a day to pick up any messages.

    Of course roaming charges still need to be reduced/got rid of. Coat because it is probably still cold and wet on holiday.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: There are other reasons for not using a phone on holiday

      Cool story, Grandad. Some people just ignore/block the pesterers for the duration, and make their tech work for *them*.

    2. Nick Ryan Silver badge

      Re: There are other reasons for not using a phone on holiday

      I can see you point, but how about these:

      You're on holiday to enjoy yourself. If your form of enjoying yourself includes being in (near constant) touch with friends and families then there's nothing wrong with that.

      You're on holiday to get away from it all and isolate yourself. Turn the phone off. Until, of course, you find that you'd like to know exactly-ish (GPS) where you are on your maps that are rather more convenient on a mobile device than the paper variety. Then the maps need to be downloaded. Then you find that you'd like to locate the nearest good taverna rather than the flea ridden cess pit you "found" the previous day. You can, of course, do things the way these things were done 20 years ago but technology is available to assist so why not use it?

      Now the trick is to manage it all and exercise self control. Will finding out the local, to your home, sports results improve your day that much? Are you able to ignore or turn off the work emails so you can deal with them when you return to work, not in your free time?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: There are other reasons for not using a phone on holiday

        I had mobes in the late-'80s/early-90s, initially as they were a job requirement - and already pocket-size! Used to turn it off at times because of being pestered by the office. Also used to have to go to Vodaphone at Newbury to get it fixed from time to time! After that job I bought - and lost while riding a motorbike - a few mobes of my own. And gradually grew to dislike them; the anxiety of not being connected. So I carried one, but turned off.

        In the early-00's had a visit from mum and dad and we went for a drive in his car. On Dartmoor. And we only just made it to a petrol station before the reserve went dry! I was glad I had the mobe 'just in case'. Worst case I could have turned it on and climbed a hill to get a signal.

        A couple of years later dad was seriously-ill - heart trouble. We gave him a mobe, but he wouldn't use it. About the same time his sister - osteoporosis - crashed her car in a ditch; sat in it a couple of hours before a friend happened upon her. Her daughter gave her a mobe after that but true to form she wouldn't use it either.

        There was an argument for dad and his sis - both gone now - to have mobes but not turned on. We, their children, needed ours on all the time though.

        1. Danny 14

          Re: There are other reasons for not using a phone on holiday

          I used my phone for data abroad. I take pictures and email them to my Mum ('cause she asked me to). Sometimes I check the local traffic if im driving, especially when im in france. I look at the snow forecast and see which are the better slopes. I download vouchers if I happen to change my plans. Email on roaming is STILL cheaper than MMS in the UK so emailing the kids info is also good.

          etc etc

          Not all of it is facebook (although some of that does happen especially with the kids).

  10. Lee D Silver badge

    Stop being shocked and do something about it.

    It's ALWAYS been a con, in the modern IP-based world. There's no reason at all that roaming even exists except to profiteer. Hell, most of the companies that charge you are foreign arms of the company you have a contract with anyway. And most of them are foreign-owned!

    So of course people just switch it off. When it's cheaper to BUY ANOTHER PHONE in another country, use foreign SIMs and get the same service, then you have the ridiculous situation of wastage and having to "con" the cellular providers in order to get sensible prices. It should not be cheaper for me to buy a SIM card from a third-party company and use it on a foreign network - with my own damn phone - than it is to take my existing phone and phone/text the same damn numbers.

    And when we talk Internet data, it's EVEN MORE ridiculous. Why does it cost more for me to use a French / Italian / Spanish data connection with an English contract phone than it does an English one? Sorry, it's all just packets - like SMS is nowadays too no doubt. (If they haven't worked out a way to transmit SMS as nothing more than a low-priority data packet on an IP backbone, converting to GSM at either end as necessary, then they really are just mugging us off).

    We'll pay stupidly-high prices until some legislation kicks in and then we'll find that it's always been possible to pay much more sensible, homogenous prices across Europe AND for the cellular companies to still make billions in profit so they can spend stupid amounts of money on 4G packages that they then sell with 1G data allowances still.

    Of course we all just switch our phones off, buy another SIM in the airport or - like my Italian girlfriend - have a UK phone and another phone from the other country. She actually just takes both when we go abroad, and saves money by keeping both contracts open. How is that even possible, logically speaking? Most of her money actually goes to third-party international call routers, and Skype, and the cellular companies could be having that money instead if only they stopped DELIBERATELY TRYING TO CON US.

    Don't block Skype on your 3G contracts - just make it so that I don't need to fecking use it. All you do is annoy me, go against the entire purpose of me having your service, and make me spend money with OTHER COMPANIES. Of course that hurts consumers, the cellular providers themselves (through their own stupidity, though, so who cares?) and small outfits trying to fight the traditions of the big incumbents.

    To be honest, when abroad, I take my phone as an entertainment device. It's a small tablet that I can join to Wifi and Skype home, read anything critical on email, play games on the plane, etc. I don't think I've ever made a phone call to/from a foreign country using a mobile. Again, it's cheaper for my girlfriend's family in Italy to use our landline (bundled with our TV contract, that we NEVER otherwise use) to phone us from Italy / phone home when they are here, and the same on their side of the continent. That's a ludicrous state of affairs.

    But, to be honest, by the time anything happens, it'll have little impact if this is really their planned timetable for fixing the problem. By the time you actually get to the point of having approval and being able to fix the problem, we'll all have been avoiding roaming for so long that we'll never trust it and will be probably be using some other technology / substitute instead.

    Hell, I know people who'd rather pay WhatsApp instead of pay for a single international text. And I can't really blame them.

    Too little, too late. If you'd mentioned this TEN YEARS AGO then maybe I'd think you actually meant it and/or could do something to fix it that might be useful to me.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Calm down! calm down!

      Some of the restrictions or charges have some justification: Skype uses more bandwidth than an equivalent voice call; roaming does incur some charges (billing mainly) and does require telcos in the land visited to invest in sufficient infrastructure to cope with visitors: think of popular holiday destinations - a surcharge of some kind might be reasonable.

      Ten years ago both the EC and the European Parliament proposed abandoning roaming altogether but the the national governments wouldn't have it but did accept the phasing out over time that we're seeing. The telcos resistance to change and shows how important their massive short-term profits are too them. They could have killed OTT services by simply reducing prices but preferred to charge more and complain. If international calls only cost, say, 25 % more than national ones, Skype would never have had a chance. Ditto texts and WhatsApp - SMS used to be free because billing it was more expensive than the cost of transmission…

      The big bang is yet to come when you get to choose your roaming partner. This will be too fiddly for most consumers but should revolutionise the whole market (both roaming and national) within a couple of years.

      1. Danny 14

        "Skype uses more bandwidth than an equivalent voice call;"

        So? I pay for the data. 100Mb of skype is exactly the same as 100Mb of pr0n or 100Mb for cat pictures. It isnt the same for the telco as 100Mb of skype isnt as much (in revenue) as 100Mb in minutes to France.

        "roaming does incur some charges (billing mainly) "

        yes. The EU commission found it to be about 2p per termination. I cannot be bothered to google the citation but it was ridiculously cheap. If the parent company was the same it was hard to find as the values were massaged.

        Using companies such as "discountdial" and "justcall" show that it is perfectly possible to call internationally from a domestic mobile cheaply. Telcos simply want to rob consumers. Roaming is yet another cash cow that needs milking.

  11. FunkyEric

    Thieving bastards

    Vodafone "allow" me to use my UK calls and data in the EU for a mere £3 a day. How generous of them. They tried to persuade me to add an extra 500MB of data to my package, but then told me I wouldn't be able to use that abroad. I mean WTF? How the hell can they try that kind of a stunt? What on earth can be their justification for differentiating between sections of my data allowance? Data is data for christs sake. So I told them to stuff their offer. I rarely use more than my original data allowance as I use Wi-Fi most of the time, so what was the point? I only needed it when I went to France. Looking forwards to the removal of roaming charges completely.

    1. Danny 14

      Re: Thieving bastards

      at £3 per day you would be better with a PAYG foreign sim. that way you can use data AND voice (incoming calls to another number might be an issue of course.).

  12. Vociferous

    Once again the EU makes a good call.

    Abolishing idiotic roaming penalties is certainly the right thing to do.

    I really don't see why people hate the EU so, I've yet to see an issue where the EU was *not* on the side of the angels, and usually against the wishes of the local governments.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Once again the EU makes a good call.

      The media and the government need a whipping boy and the civil service and bureaucracy of the European Commission make excellent ones.

      Anything that is unpopular is blamed on them, whereas anything that turns out to be popular is usually spun as hard-won by the government. Business always finds a way to defend gouging as necessary for investment (the Ryanair twat about compensation payments, the telcos about roaming, etc.) The Commission is always on the defensive in such situations and most of the "journalists" covering the issue spend more time drinking with Farage and his buddies than they do reading the, admittedly often tedious, documents related to the single market.

      Now, if only the UK would get on with unbundling the UK's energy markets as the EU requires…

    2. MrXavia
      Big Brother

      Re: Once again the EU makes a good call.

      The EU has its good AND bad sides...

      When they try to save consumers money, when they protect our freedoms, when they stop governments being arseholes then they are doing good...

      BUT when they impose their immigration policies, block us from kicking out terrorists, the whole CAP debacle.. well all of that kind of thing, they are doing bad...

      I want us to remain IN Europe, with the current retards in power we need Europe to curb their 1984 learnings... Really the EU should be there to do ONE thing, and that is protect the freedom of the people of Europe..

      1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

        Re: Once again the EU makes a good call. @MrXavia

        "...block us from kicking out terrorists..."
        Ah, but that isn't the EU. That's the European Convention of Human Rights. It was put in place to try and prevent another world war and the abuses that lead to and resulted from the last ones. Also a good part of it was written by us, a conservative MP, I believe. The European Convention of Human Rights is just about the only thing that has stopped the UK getting so bad that 1984 and V for Vendetta look like a fairy tale by comparison.

    3. Squander Two

      The difference between laws and constitutions.

      The EU regularly make good decisions, and I for one like Neelie. But the fact is that she is unelected. It's great that she's doing good, but, if she were doing bad, as some Commissioners sometimes do, what would we do about it? Vote her out? Can't. And that is a problem.

      Tony Benn has repeatedly made the point that an MP has no power of their own; they are lent power by their constituents for the duration of their term in office. So, even if everything the EU does is completely wonderful, no MP or British Government actually has the right to abbrogate any of their powers to the EU, because they're not their powers. This issue would be completely resolved by a referendum, of course, but our lords and masters aren't too keen on the idea for some reason.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The difference between laws and constitutions.

        > But the fact is that she is unelected.

        As opposed to being "elected" from a poll of clueless (and therefore inoffensive) candidates bankrolled by $BIG_CORPORATION? I'll take unelected any day, my dear fellow.

        May I remind you in passing that Sir Winston was unelected, rather unlike his Teutonic counterpart?

        1. Squander Two

          Re: The difference between laws and constitutions.

          > As opposed to being "elected" from a poll of clueless (and therefore inoffensive) candidates bankrolled by $BIG_CORPORATION?

          Well, my mother has stood for Parliament five times, and I can assure you this is just bollocks. She wouldn't even make this claim about her opponents. It's more true in the US, sadly, but in the UK, it's surprisingly easy to stand as an MP. My own MP is Sylvia Hermon, an independent who can and does thrash the major parties' candidates. The Conservatives are even beginning -- albeit way too tentatively -- to experiment with open primaries; I believe two MPs were chosen that way at the last election, which may not be many but is two more than at the previous election, demonstrating that the current move is away from, not towards, the situation you describe.

          > Sir Winston was unelected, rather unlike his Teutonic counterpart

          Well, firstly, you're conflating the election of an MP with the appointment of a Prime Minister -- and at a time of threatened invasion, no less. Churchill was elected as an MP, repeatedly. Furthermore, when he started his parliamentary career, the rule was still in place that you had to immediately stand in a by-election when you were moved from the backbenches to the Cabinet, so he was elected not only as an MP but specifically as a Cabinet minister, repeatedly. At the outbreak of war, our elected MPs chose from among their number the man who they thought was most likely to win the war -- thereby using the powers and responsibilities entrusted to them by their electorate, which is exactly what's supposed to happen in a democracy. As soon as the war was over, they held a General Election. All pretty bloody democratic.

          Secondly, no, Hitler wasn't elected, although he did come to power in a democracy. He came second in the 1932 presidential election, then orchestrated a non-military coup. Try researching things rather than just regurgitating whatever you heard down the pub.

          > I'll take unelected any day

          Well, I hope you get what you want. But, please, not in my country.

    4. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Once again the EU makes a good call.

      Swings and roundabouts.

      The only reason we have International roaming charges within Europe is that Vodafone (for example) aren't allowed to offer home rates across Europe on their pan-European network, but must treat all networks equally for roaming purposes.

      The reason? EU competition rules designed to prevent the multinationals shutting the local providers out of the lucrative "road warrior" / business market.

      Anyhow, sod the roaming call charges, do something about roaming data which is where the serious naked theft takes place.

  13. Chuunen Baka

    Joys of Capitalism

    It amuses me that people consistently vote for "business friendly" governments and then are shocked when businesses turn around and screw them.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  14. Chris Miller

    Three PAYG

    Offers their 'Feel at home' service, where you pay the same rates in a variety of countries (currently: Australia, Austria, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, Indonesia, Macau, Republic of Ireland, Sri Lanka, Sweden & USA) as in the UK. This includes PAYG plans and packages. It's great to be able to use (say) Google Maps without having to worry about bills. You have to be a bit careful if you're near the border of a country that doesn't support this service, but if you've bought a cheap package, the damage can't be more than a few quid.

    1. NightFox

      Re: Three PAYG

      Yep, this is one area in which Three really puts the others to shame (it's on contract too, not just PAYG) - OK, it's currently limited to those countries where Three already has a presence or a sister/partner company, but the recent addition of the USA to their list makes this outstanding. I also get a bit nervous that I have to enable data roaming in these countries, worrying that it'll connect me to a network other than 3, So far though, I've used their "free" roaming on a good dozen occasions and never been charged, apart from the time I forgot to turn data roaming off again before I travelled to France.

    2. Colin Miller

      Re: Three PAYG - lock to network

      You can lock your (UK SIM using) phone to Vodaphone Italy, or whoever their prefered partner is - you should have got a txt to say who it is.

  15. esucmn
    Thumb Down

    How can she be shocked?

    Or has she forgotten that not everyone earns a politicians wage, with an expense packet? About time someone did something about the costs though.

    1. GrumpyOldBloke

      Re: How can she be shocked?

      She is shocked because without your phone it is more difficult for the 'authorities' to track you.

  16. xerocred

    She obviously doesn't have to pay her own phone bill.

    1. David Nash

      Re. She obviously doesn't have to pay her own phone bill

      That's what occurred to me when I first read this story. She's shocked that people avoid roaming because hers is probably all inclusive courtesy of the European Commission and she's probably unaware of the charges.

      By the way, to those who say "use free wifi" it's not as ubiquitous or reliable as we'd like, and you shouldn't have to go to a particular location to use your phone, which is called mobile after all.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You never realise

    Just how useless most of the most useful things on your phone are until you're stood in Tokyo looking at the phone thinking "well fuck, how do I find my way there now"

    It doesn't help they have a very arbitrary method of orienting the maps by the road side.

    1. auburnman

      Re: You never realise

      Did you mean to put "without a data connection" somewhere in there?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You never realise

      exactly, I remember watching the S4 launch, and thinking brilliant, "now I can finally use the translator when I am in the middle of a field in China with no mobile connection" but that was bullshit as usual.

      More services need to be designed to work without data.. not every location has a good connection!

      1. DropBear

        Re: You never realise

        Google translator does actually work fully offline with whatever language packs you download for offline use. Believe it or not, I just checked. Fair warning though, there's no way to make that include the photo-recognition-translations (and probably the speech-to-text too) that obviously runs on the server and needs a data connection.

        Same with maps - there are fully offline ones too on Android, even for free. GPS itself does not need data if only you switch A-GPS off...

  18. peredur


    The article, rather snidely, mentions that the Commissioner is 'unelected'. Well, yes. Just like regulators all over the place - OfCom, OfGen, OfSted and all the other Of* things you can think of (well, nearly all of them).

    In my opinion she's doing a far better job than my elected representatives, in her field of interest anyway. Does El Reg think that anything done by someone who is not elected is somehow invalid. Is the El Reg editor elected?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Unelected

      This is why I prefer hereditary peers in the House of Lords. when you are not elected, or given lordship by a party, you don't have an agenda or someone telling you how to vote, you vote on how YOU see fit... if you look at the other lords, they pretty much ALL have agendas or someone pulling their strings...

      the house of lords was set up right a long time ago, and its been screwed up by removing the Hereditary peers, basically wiping out the one real set of checks & balances we had in our government

      1. DropBear

        Re: Unelected, if only there was a way to put in place only those unelected Lords that happen to vote (as they see fit) the exact same way we see fit! ...oh, wait...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Unelected

        > the house of lords was set up right a long time ago, and its been screwed up by removing the Hereditary peers, basically wiping out the one real set of checks & balances we had in our government

        So true.

    2. Squander Two

      Re: Unelected

      > The article, rather snidely, mentions that the Commissioner is 'unelected'. Well, yes. Just like regulators all over the place - OfCom, OfGen, OfSted and all the other Of* things you can think of (well, nearly all of them).

      Here's the difference. OfCom, OfGen, OfSted, etc are subordinate to a democratically elected government, obeying and enforcing rules and laws set by a democratically elected government. The EC sets the rules and laws itself and is subordinate to no elected body. It's quite an important difference.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    why would I use my mobile on holiday anyway?!

    ah, I seeee, to receive a call from your office, to help them sort out that little problem... One of those calls that you can refuse... no, not really. Unless you want to look for another contract, eh? :(

  20. David Cantrell

    If you pick the right cellco then international roaming is so cheap as to be not worth worrying about anyway. On O2 a week of using just as much data and making just as many calls abroad as I do normally costs only about 15 quid. Sure, I'd love to get it for free instead, but there are costs arising from them buying bandwidth from the foreign cellco. If they can't recover those costs - and make some profit - from the person responsible for those costs, then they'll just have to put everyone's bills up instead.

    1. Squander Two

      "the foreign cellco"

      You mean O2 FR, O2 DE, O2 ES or O2 IT?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I applaud those who switch off the mobes when abroad

    this indicates they're aware of the fleecing scheme and DO something about it - now.

  22. jason 7

    My usual mobile activity when abroad on holiday.

    One text sent to parents saying "Have arrived safely! All is well. See you when we get back!"

    Then the phone's 2G/3G is switched off and only back on in case of an emergency. Better safe than sorry.

    I'll be picking up stuff on email/messengers from the hotels free wi-fi...

  23. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    £2.00 a minute here

    on Vodafone India and I'm a customer on their network in the UK.

    The sad thing that getting a PAYG sim here is harder(more beauracratic) than getting my Business Visa for the place.

    I requested my Indian phone a week ago and it still has not materialised!

    Sill I'm flying home for the rugby at Twickenham on Sat. Then I'll be in the Pub down the road for a beer ot five.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    O2 in the USA

    When I wanted to use my O2 phone in the USA, they wanted to charge me £200 for a months USA company SIMM on a month contract with unlimited data and unlimited calls back to the UK for £50.

  25. cambsukguy

    I know she can't fix it but... is still unbelievably expensive outside the EU - I recall it being something like £2.50/min to make a call and £1.50 to receive as well as something like £1/text in St. Lucia.

    One has to be careful not to accidentally answer the phone when you are in one of those places.

    It must be like that to catch the unwary and fleece to businesses that desperately need connectivity when travelling I assume.

    I remember guys with data packages that cost their companies several hundred per month in the UK thinking that they were preventing me getting data at a sensible price because they just paid it rather than continuously bitch to one of the cartel members fleecing them.

  26. Dave 150

    Wouldn't scrapping roaming charges mean we could use a contract from any European mobile phone operator?

    1. Squander Two

      Scrapping roaming doesn't necessarily mean allowing the use of bundled minutes -- although Three's implementation does. But, yes, I believe (and hope) that is Neelie's eventual goal. It is rather the point of a single market, after all.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Keep roaming charges as high as possible

    I don't go abroad very often and when I do, I only use free wifi and TuGo on my O2 contract to make free text and voice calls. Therefore, being completely self serving, I hope mobile operators keep data / roaming charges as high as possible, it helps bolster their profits. If the EU forces them to reduce these charges, they'll make up the difference in profits else where. This means normal contract costs for use at home will be increased to compensate. You can guarantee that it won't be the mobile phone companies that lose out!

    When the credit card companies and banks were forced to reduce their 'overdrawn' standing charges, they increased their interest rates or introduced a monthly fixed charge to make up for the lost revenue.

  28. Dick Emery

    Something else you should know

    If you are on Three network and have a block on 08 numbers (why is this still not been sorted yet I thought they was going to banish call charges on 0800 at least?) in some cases you still get charged. Or rather the call will be allowed through. If you are in credit or a credit is due to be paid back to you for the following month you will get charged if you make a call to an 08 number. I think the saem applies to international numbers too.

    I rang a number in France last month and even though the phone never picked up I still got charged for it (£1 something). So international calls still get charged even if they do not pickup.

    The entire system is a mess and it's about time roaming charges were scrapped altogether. Imagine if Captain Kirk had switch off his communicator every time he visited Ursa Minor for fear of some huge intergalactic phone bill.

  29. Andrew Jones 2

    Hardly surprising, blame the voicemail scam

    I don't know why she is "shocked" I know lots of people who took their mobiles abroad "for emergencies" and when they switch it on in a foreign country and get the "Welcome to...." text, their phone is then until further notice attached to the foreign network, turning the phone off AFTER receiving that text means that any calls to that phone that get sent sent to voicemail (because the phone is off) are still "received" calls that the foreign network will charge for. Technically it is possible to take a phone abroad, get the text, turn the phone off, bring it back to the UK but not turn it on for 4 weeks and for the 4 weeks you will still get charged roaming charges for every call you receive that goes to voicemail UNTIL you turn the phone back on and the network acknowledges it is back in it's home country - the reason is because when you phone is abroad your home network is notified how and where to route any calls to it's subscriber id, so in the event your phone is off it goes like this:

    Orange UK Caller > Orange UK Operator Network > O2 UK Operator Network > Foreign Network (Foreign Network can't see the phone) > O2 UK Operator Network > Voicemail

    At the point the call leaves the UK, O2 is being billed for it by the foreign network, even though the call is then being sent back to the UK operator to go to voicemail, because the voicemail service is really a call forward service.

    So until your phone reattaches to the UK network, the UK network will keep sending the call to the foreign network. Thus for most people who have been hit with large bills because of this, they switch their phone off in the UK, and leave it in the UK.

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