More Clarity In International Roaming Rates?

For years, I’ve been complaining about the high price of mobile phone calls made abroad. For example, I’m in Canada right now paying US$1 a minute for my cell calls, and when in Europe that number often jumps to $4 per minute. One of the reasons the prices for International roaming are so high is that few customers shop on that basis – we’re usually so focused on domestic “anytime minutes” that we never ask about rates abroad. Thus, there’s little reason for carriers to compete on the point. For many travelers, their phones simply work when the arrive abroad (which is great), but they are usually completely unaware of how unreasonably high the rates on their roaming calls will be. The European Commission believes that carriers are deliberately taking advantage of people’s ignorance of the roaming rates and simply “surprising” them with a big phone bill as a welcome home gift. The EU is now poised to require carriers at least to provide more clarity about what the rates are to travelers, while stopping short of legislating changes that would regulate rates. Sounds good to us: I’m not sure forcing clarity in pricing really helps consumers too much in the short term, but longer term it will raise the issue and make it a point on which the carriers actually have to compete — which in turn will lead to lower prices driven by market forces and not regulation.

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