A Summer Break for Roaming Charges

Tesco Mobile Temporarily Halts Roaming Charges in 31 European Countries

This week, Tesco Mobile announced it will temporarily halt roaming charges in 31 European countries. The operator’s Home from Home scheme will run from 23 May until 3 September 2016 and will include European Union member states as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Tesco’s decision coincides with new ceiling rates for roaming charges in the EU that will come into effect at the end of April 2016.

Tesco Mobile has a head start in doing away with roaming fees this summer, beating the European Commission’s new rules to scrap roaming charges by June 2017. In October 2015, the European Parliament voted to eliminate them based on consumer complaints. After June 2017, customers of network operators in the EU will not be charged extra fees for making calls, texts or using data in another EU country.

For many British holidaymakers, this will bring peace of mind, enabling them to leave their phones on while travelling in Europe. Tesco subscribers will get an early taste of things to come, as any usage that exceeds their contract allowance will be charged at the same rate as within the UK. Simon Groves, chief marketing officer at Tesco Mobile, said that subscribers should “enjoy their holiday without having to worry about the cost of using their phones”, and that travellers shouldn’t have to wait until 2017 “to banish roaming”.

This is not completely unprecedented. In 2014, UK mobile operator Three scrapped data charges for visitors to 18 countries including New Zealand and the US. Three’s Feel at Home service has been a major source of its recent good customer growth. It has been used by 3 million consumers, saving £2.6 million in roaming charges. Carphone Warehouse also offers inclusive roaming for customers on its iD service. This seems to have resonated well, as iD had more than 250,000 customers in the UK and Ireland at the end of 2015. Other operators are less generous, but still offer better roaming rates than in years gone by. Vodafone, for example, allows customers to use contracted minutes, text and data in selected countries for £3 a day. And some European operators outside the UK are also adopting similar strategies.

This is a shrewd and timely move as the holiday season approaches. High roaming charges are one of consumers’ greatest concerns and Tesco’s move should prove popular. The move carries little risk as most of the countries covered are in the European Union, where roaming charges will be abolished in 2017. A more generous offer would have been to extend it to other popular destinations such as Australia, the United Arab Emirates and the US, but this would have incurred significantly greater cost.

Roaming season is soon here, but the end is near.