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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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.

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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.

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"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.

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Pirate

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.

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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.).

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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.

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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…

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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..

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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.

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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.

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Coat

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Re: How can she be shocked?

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

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

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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.

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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.

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Re: You never realise

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

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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!

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WTF?

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...

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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).

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?

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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

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Trollface

Re: Unelected

...now, 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...

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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.

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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.

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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? :(

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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.

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"the foreign cellco"

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

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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.

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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...

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Pint

£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.

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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 data...got USA company SIMM on a month contract with unlimited data and unlimited calls back to the UK for £50.

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I know she can't fix it but...

...it 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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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