What do you do if mobile phone firms are fleecing customers when they use their mobile phones abroad? The EU’s answer has been to cap mobile phone roaming charges. As someone who uses a mobile phone a little in general, but (proportionately speaking) a lot abroad, I’ve been hit by high roaming charges for a long time and, with all of the UK networks setting the same sorts of rates, have had nowhere to turn.
In theory competition between companies would have driven these costs down, but in practice the bill customers pay is nowhere close to the cost incurred, and operators make a nice profit out of it. As responsibility lies elsewhere – with another network – firms have not had the incentive to lower prices. So the EU’s move looks draconian, but essentially there seems to be no other option available, and Commissioner Reding has been reasonably robust saying this.
Yes – I think it’s clearly a good move: a time when intervention in the market is, unusually, justified and necessary.
What’s really interesting to me of course is the way that this story has played in the UK press – which, from what I have seen, has been positive – “something the EU has done for you” – and even in the Daily Mail stable of papers, which I think is really interesting (not just today, but last year too).
Does the fact that I’m suspicious about explicitly anti-European media promoting an EU good news story mean just that I’m too suspicious, or am I right to be cautious? No doubt they would say it proves that they are always objective and judge a story on its merits but I can’t really accept that…
Or is the explanation that consumer activism ranks even higher in the Daily Mail scheme of priorities than campaigning against the EU?