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Irish consumers in the dark over new roaming rules

Our survey of over 1,000 people reveals that the majority of holidaymakers don’t know enough about the EU’s “roam-like-at-home” rules to make informed decisions when travelling in the EU this summer.

This Thursday, June 15th, the EU’s new roaming rules, dubbed “roam-like-at-home” will come into effect. Over the last number of weeks here at bonkers.ie, we’ve been carrying out a survey to find out what the public think of the rules.

We surveyed over 1,000 members of the public, the results are in and they are eye-opening!

The overarching theme is that most people are in the dark as to exactly what the new rules will mean for them when travelling in the EU this summer. 

What does “roam-like-at-home” mean?

The new “roam-like-at-home” rules state that EU mobile customers will be able to make voice calls and send SMS messages as they would domestically from June 15th, without incurring any extra charges.  

However, the rules do not extend to cover data usage, and network operators will be permitted to impose fair usage policies on data in certain circumstances, most notably, on customers who have unlimited data plans. Penalty fees of €7.70 per GB will be charged to consumers who exceed their limits.

Our survey found that 24% of Irish consumers weren't aware of the roam-like-at-home rules at all and 61% of them don’t know how the rules will affect them. What’s more, eight out of ten respondents take the “roam-like-at-home” rules at face value, assuming that it will mean they can use their mobile phones as they would in Ireland, without incurring extra charges; including, one would presume - data usage.

This grey area where data usage is concerned, leaves many Irish consumers vulnerable to unknowingly exceeding data limits and running up larger-than-expected bills.

What kind of data roaming restrictions can we expect?

Here’s what it boils down to; when it comes to data, mobile operators will be allowed to continue to impose fair usage limits under certain circumstances when you're roaming in the EU.

Each operator’s policies will differ, but if you exceed your pre-determined data roaming limit while abroad, you will still be subject to penalty fees, although they will be capped under the new EU law.

So far, ahead of the new law’s implementation, a few networks announced how much data they will be allocating on unlimited data package holders while roaming. For instance, Three will allow for a 5GB limit, while Virgin Media announced theirs to be 5.5GB.

From the 15th of June 2017, the most you can be charged for exceeding your operator's roaming limit is €7.70 per GB of data, and this will steadily decrease over the course of the next five years; €6/GB (01/01/2018), €4.5/GB (01/01/2019), €3.5/GB (01/01/2020), €3/GB (01/01/2021) and €2.5/GB (01/01/2022).

If you want to know more about how to calculate your limit according to your plan, see our article on how to calculate your data roaming limit.

I’m a light data user, do I need to worry?

Our survey found that only a tiny minority of people reported using very data-heavy applications while abroad. If you feel like you fall into this category, the new roaming rules will likely come as nothing but good news to you.

If other networks follow in the footsteps of Three and Virgin Media, allowing for in or around 5GB of data; as a light data user on an unlimited data plan, 5GB should be more than enough to meet your needs.

I’m a heavy data user, do I need to worry?

If you’re a heavy data user (if you do a lot of video streaming using your phone’s data, for example), it’s a good idea to exercise caution while travelling in the EU after the 15th. We strongly recommend informing yourself of which apps use the most data, connect to WiFi wherever possible and be sure to contact your operator to confirm your data roaming limit ahead of travel.

Regardless of how much you use, if you’re a data user you should still exercise caution!

Currently, 38% of Irish holidaymakers avoid using data while abroad out of fear of coming home to a large bill or burning through their data allowance. Yet, a huge 70% claim that they will use more data than previously after the new rules come into effect.

Though only a small proportion of the people we surveyed reported heavy data usage, social media is the second most popular online activity (20%), after general internet browsing (29%). Considering that social media is now littered with video and high-res photos, which can use a lot of data, many people may still be vulnerable to breaking their operator’s fair usage roaming policy even if they think they’re low risk.

The bottom line is, the roam-like-at-home rules are a great leap forward for mobile customers across Europe. However, the name is somewhat misleading, since mobile customers with unlimited plans will still be subject to data caps while roaming, so customers are right to, and should be wary at the same time.

Mobile Roaming Week on bonkers.ie

It’s Mobile Roaming Week here at bonkers.ie from the 12th-16th of June. We’re taking a deep dive into everything roaming and we’ll be hosting a Facebook live Q&A at 1pm on Friday, June 16th.

To have your question answered live on bonkers.ie, just tweet us using #askbonkers, email us at hello@bonkers.ie or leave a comment below this piece.


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