roam free

'Don't have the wool pulled over their eyes': Comreg to investigate Three over roaming charges

Fine Gael TD Noel Rock wants Comreg to investigate potential breaches of EU law as a “matter of urgency”.

FINE GAEL TD Noel Rock has said that he is concerned that Irish mobile phone providers will be able exploit a loophole to continue charging customers higher roaming charges, when EU legislation banning roaming charges comes into effect in June.

One part of the rules was the concept of ‘roam like at home’. According to the EU Commission, travelers are meant to be able to “call, text and surf on their mobile devices when abroad in the EU for no extra charge on top of the price they pay at home”.

Mobile giant Three, however, had announced that Irish customers on its all-you-can-eat data plan will not be able to avail of the same all-you-can-eat data offer when roaming in the EU.

Rock wants the Irish Commission for Communications Regulation, ComReg, to investigate the matter, something which the regulator has said it will pursue, reported the Irish Independent.

The Dublin North West TD said: “The loophole will allow operators to impose high roaming charges by modifying consumers’ contracts by ensuring that offers such as unlimited data are described as a service benefit rather than a central part of a contract.

This is completely anti-consumer.

Rock added that he hoped Comreg investigated the situation as a “matter of urgency”.

He added that Irish customers had waited for the end of roaming charges for a long time, and that it was vital to ensure they “reap the benefits and don’t have the wool pulled over their eyes by mobile operators”.

A spokesperson for Comreg told “We are aware that a mobile operator has recently informed its customers of new contractual arrangements that purport to draw a distinction between a contractual data allowance and an unlimited all-you-can-eat-data “service benefit”.

We have sought information from the operator concerned so that we can assess whether the operator is in compliance with its existing obligations, as well as with the new roaming rules that will come into force on 15 June.

“We will not say anything more about this matter until we can do so without prejudicing our compliance function.”

EU rules

The move comes ahead of new EU regulations that are set to come into force in the middle of June.

Telecoms operators are obliged to include this ‘roam-like-at-home’ provision in customer contracts. However, customers can still be charged for data usage. As part of the EU’s plan, roaming customers will be charged the wholesale rate for data, 85 cent per megabyte (MB).

In cases where an operator is providing an all you can eat service, the company can limit data volumes to twice what the customer would be able to buy with the value of their contract.

For example, for someone with a €40 per month contract, each 85 cent buys them 1MB of data. €40 buys about 4.8GB of data, so the customer would be entitled to a 9.6GB allowance.

The Irish Independent reported that there is a loophole where a company’s data offering is classed as a ‘service benefit’, rather than a ‘core’, part of a customer contract.

It said a company could do this to provide a lower data allowance to customers travelling in the EU.

However, the EU Commission said in a statement: “There is no loophole by which part of the domestic data allowance could be regarded as gift or side benefit and would therefore not count when traveling abroad.

Doing so would appear like a clear case of circumvention, for which there is no basis in the roaming regulation.

With reporting from Paul O’Donoghue

Read: Despite EU plan, Three mobile customers won’t get ‘all you can eat’ data abroad

Read: Bus company used CCTV video ‘unfairly’ to catch driver using mobile phone

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