EU mobile roaming charges to end on Thursday
AFTER years of unexpected and additional costs mobile phone customers in the north will see an end to unwelcome European roaming charges on Thursday.
UK mobile phone users will now be able to use their regular allowance of calls, texts and data for no extra cost from anywhere in the European Economic Area.
In the past mobile phone users in Northern Ireland have faced extra charges when in Europe and many living in border counties have racked up unexpected costs when their mobile inadvertently picks up a signal from the Republic.
The long-term implementation of the ban remains up in the air though, with no clear indication it will be in place once the UK officially leaves the European Union in two years time.
Previously the British government, regulator Ofcom nor mobile phone networks O2 and EE were unable to give assurances that the abolition of mobile phone roaming charges would not be curtailed by Brexit, while in February a report by the European Parliament's industry, research and energy committee that the roaming deal would not apply in the UK after its exit from the EU.
Ernest Doku, mobiles spokesman at uSwitch.com, said any attempt to re-introduce the charges if the UK lost participation in the policy post Brexit would "a bitter pill for consumers to swallow".
The 'Roam Like Home' legislation aims to prevent consumers receiving huge bills after downloading films or other data while travelling in Europe, but watchdog Which has warned that differences between providers when it comes to the details of tariffs could lead to unexpected costs for customers.
Mobile phone users have been urged to remember that, even though the UK is still part of the EU, the regulations only apply to roaming, not to calling EU countries from the UK and prices vary significantly.
Exceeding agreed minutes, texts and data will still be charged in the EU as it would in the UK, with all providers charging different rates, while competing networks include different countries in their roaming territories, which can vary further depending on whether the tariff is pay as you go or pay monthly.
For example O2 pay as you go customers will continue to incur roaming charges in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Monaco and Switzerland, whereas O2 pay monthly customers will not.
Which managing director of home products and services, Alex Neill said customers must be aware of possible charges they may incur.
"Many will reap the benefits of these changes and will no longer be put off from making calls abroad. However, it is important that you take a close look at what is or isn't included in your current mobile deal.Not knowing what's included could lead to some surprising charges on your next bill."
European Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said that the abolition of roaming charges showed the EU could deliver tangible results to improve the daily life of Europeans, adding that "roaming charges will be soon old memories".