News: Talk Ain't Cheap

Promised lower overseas charges won't be so easy to implement. Mark MacKenzie reports

Maintaining that feeling of inner calm after arriving home from a holiday has never been easy. Flight delays, lost luggage and, to cap it all, a lack of taxis at the airport all contribute to the sense that a seven-day break is precisely that and not a minute more. In recent years, the fire of resentment felt by returnees has been fuelled by the appearance, several weeks after our homecoming, of your mobile phone bill. Those "Guess-where-I-am?" calls from the beach that seemed such a good idea at the time lose their appeal when it's time to pay up.

Earlier this year, the European Commission tabled a piece of draft legislation which suggested that this might be about to change, at least for those choosing to spend their holidays on the Continent. By imposing a cap on roaming charges for outgoing and incoming calls, bureaucrats in Brussels hope to force operators to make dramatic cuts to the cost of using a mobile telephone within the EU.

According to industry figures released this year, calling the UK from a popular destination such as Spain currently costs somewhere between £2 and £4 per minute, depending on your choice of operator and whether or not you choose to call in peak hours. Receiving a call from the UK in Spain, on the other hand, sets the customer back anywhere between £1 and £3.

If, as looks likely, the commission gets its way and charges are capped, a UK consumer phoning home from another EU country could pay around 34p a minute, or as little as 11p for an incoming call. Making a local call within an EU country, meanwhile would, under the new proposals, cost around 23p.

Not surprisingly, the proposals were not widely welcomed by those service providers for whom the EU's roaming market is worth an estimated £6bn a year. Earlier this month, Margaret Hodge, Britain's minister for industry and the regions, attended a meeting of the EU's Telecoms Council to discuss the matter, arguing that operators should be given the opportunity to make cuts voluntarily.

With the proposals due to come into effect next summer at the very earliest, it seems the benefits for consumers might not be as straightforward as they first appear.

"The main beef we have is the way this is being done," explains David Pringle of the GSM Association, an industry body which represents more than 700 mobile phone operators around the world. "Some providers, for example, already offer high-volume bundles of roaming minutes which, if you use all of them, can cost as little as 22p a minute for outgoing calls. Other operators allow you to combine your mobile package with your home landline."

Mr Pringle is concerned that the imposition of a flat rate will remove such flexibility from an already highly personalised market.

"The various parts of the telecoms market are all interconnected - you can't simply tweak one bit of it without there being knock- on effect. Domestic [mobile] tariffs have been falling for years, but that could change. Customers, quite rightly, like the idea of cheaper roaming charges, but for the rest of the industry there will be unintended consequences. There is also the danger that smaller operators will be harder hit."

Mr Pringle points out that the market is already delivering cuts in the roaming sector, with prices down an average 22 per cent from last year. One of the options being considered by mobile operators in response to a charge cap would include restricting user access to roaming services, most probably in favour of those users on higher tariffs.

Any reform is likely to be a lengthy process, Mr Pringle observes, so it could be some time before you might see a change in that post-holiday phone bill. "The original plan was to have the system in place for 2007 but there is sufficient concern about the rigid nature of the legislation to suggest that might not happen. Changes to the draft legislation are inevitable and we think this needs to be given a great deal more thought."

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales and Office Administrator – Sports Media

    £23,000: Sauce Recruitment: A global leader in sports and entertainment is now...

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

    Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
    Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Pop-up hotels filling a niche

    Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
    Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

    Feather dust-up

    A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    Boris Johnson's war on diesel

    11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
    5 best waterproof cameras

    Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

    Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
    Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

    Louis van Gaal interview

    Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
    Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

    Will Gore: Outside Edge

    The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
    The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

    The air strikes were tragically real

    The children were playing in the street with toy guns
    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

    Britain as others see us

    Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
    How did our legends really begin?

    How did our legends really begin?

    Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
    Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Lambrusco is back on the menu

    Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz