EC claims operators missing out on 300 million customers due to roaming rates

The European Commission has published research that suggests Europe’s mobile operators are missing out on business from 300 million customers by charging roaming premiums within the EU. The research forms part of the EC’s continuing drive to end EU roaming charges.

According to the research, 94 per cent of 28,000 European citizens surveyed said that they limit their use of online services when travelling outside of their home country.

47 per cent of respondents said they would never use mobile internet in another EU country while only one in ten said they would use email services in the same way they use them at home while abroad. The research also revealed that over a quarter (28 per cent) of European mobile users switch off their handsets while travelling abroad within the EU.

Customers who travel frequently, potentially the most lucrative segment for roaming services, according to the EC, are in fact more likely to switch off their handsets while roaming than occasional travellers. The EC claimed that this is because frequent travellers understand the real cost of roaming.

“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,” said European Commission VP Neelie Kroes.

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“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.”

There are signs that message appears to be taken on board by operators already. According to the Intelligence Industry Survey 2014, only around a fifth of the survey’s 2,000-plus respondents believe that mobile operators are justified in charging LTE roaming at a premium to other roaming services with price expected to remain an important competitive differentiator in LTE roaming.

Last month, French operator group Orange included roaming services in high-end tariffs for customers in key European markets travelling across its entire European footprint, just a week after French rival Bouygues Telecom introduced a plan that offers subscribers  a domestic package that also includes unlimited voice and text and 3GB of data to and from all EU (plus several non-EU) countries and French overseas regions.

The move comes as the European Commission pushes to ban incoming call charges for EU citizens. However, the EC told last month that restrictions on European roaming charges are now likely to be introduced in September or October, rather than July as originally planned. In its initial proposals to reform the EU telecoms market, the European Commission intended to ban incoming call charges for roaming citizens within the region by July 1st 2014.

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