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Europe kills roaming charges

Europe kills roaming charges
PHOTO COURTESY OF SHUTTERSTOCK

Even if it has been many years since you were last charged roaming charges, that sting lingers. It used to be that no matter which cellphone provider you used, you paid more for making calls outside your provider's region. And we're not talking tiny fees.

It wasn't uncommon just a few years ago that frequent business travelers, for example, would rack up hundreds of dollars in roaming charges each month. Even people who only occasionally used cellphones were constantly on the lookout for those extra, painful charges.

These days, in some parts of the world, roaming charges are still commonplace. Although as of today you can scratch European Union countries off that list. Which is a good thing, depending on who you ask. Cellphone customers are likely happy. In the past year, for example, British people traveling to other European Union countries paid about $877 million (U.S. dollars) in roaming fees.

Soon, it will be against the law for cellphone companies to charge Europeans roaming charges, if they're making calls from within the European Union. If so, those calls will cost the same as if they were dialed from home.

Some, but not all, lawmakers have hailed this new law as a good thing for consumers. When it comes to making it affordable to make telephone calls, it's hard to disagree with that. However, roaming charges have been and continue to be a contentious issue in Europe.

One potential downside of removing roaming fees is that it could reduce revenue for cellphone companies. Vodafone, for instance, had been charging their customers extra roaming fees even if they were in EU countries.

In fact, the European Parliament took some 10 years to ban roaming fees, according to Vivianne Reding, former VP of the European Commission. Their challenge had been lawmakers and phone companies concerned about the financial impact of the law, which goes into full effect in June 2017.

Meantime, some people say that, despite today's decision, roaming fees may live on. On her website, Julia Reda from the European Pirate Party wrote that the elimination of roaming fees may not be all it's cracked up to be.

"The plan to place an end to roaming surcharges in Europe has been adopted pending a review of pricing and consumption patterns. Even if the review is completed by the 15 June 2017 deadline, roaming surcharges will only be suspended up to a fair use limit."

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Source: The Guardian
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