On June 15, 2017 after a decade of imposed price cuts, the premium for using your phone while travelling in the EU is set to disappear for good. While the initial intervention was a bitterly controversial one at the time, it was eventually embraced by operators, many of which ended up going beyond what was required. Some confusion is likely to remain, but for many, the end to so called bill shock will be of immense relief.
A mixed bag of emotions including joy, relief and anguish
For travellers who have ever returned home from a holiday or a business trip to ‘bill shock’, the complete removal of roaming premiums will no doubt come as a delight. While Netflix, Snapchat or Instagram might not have been heard of in 2007 when prices were first regulated, many consumers expect to use such services wherever they go, like they do at home, without having to think about the cost. That can now become a reality.
For the mobile operators themselves, there is a widespread sense of relief that this whole episode is finally over. Initially they opposed the intervention, particularly the decision to regulate retail prices, but later came to embrace it; with many adding additional countries outside of Europe to the list where you could use your phone without a premium.
The one set of stakeholders however who are not likely to be so celebratory tomorrow are the MVNOs. Many were disappointed with the final decision on the wholesale price caps, saying the data rate has been set much too high making it difficult for some to recover their costs. The fear is that to compensate when they can’t negotiate a good deal they will become less competitive in the domestic market and respond by putting up prices elsewhere. While tomorrow looks set to be a day of celebration, this will be one area Brussels will be keeping a watchful eye on.