A little education on roaming fees could go a long way

The European Union is a wonderful thing. Or not, if you are fed up with strictures on the shapes of bananas or limits on how powerful your vacuum cleaner is allowed to be.

For those of us who can remember travelling through Europe with checks at every border, the sheer ease of moving from one country to another is certainly an aspect that many appreciate. A cycle tour from Nice in France to San Lorenzo in Italy, passing through the Italian border town of Ventimiglia, requires nothing more than your bicycle, a little help from Trenitalia and a strong pair of legs--no passport needed.

It was while we were enjoying Italian coffee at the halfway point that one of my companions noticed I was busy adding a picture of us all to my Facebook page.

'Isn't that a bit expensive?" he asked, obviously thinking I would be hit by high data charges because my domestic network operator is in France.

"No," I replied. "My contract actually includes 5 GB of roaming data a year over 15 days within that year…"

I trailed off, as I realised that this is a) pretty boring, and b) unreasonably complex for something that really ought to be a little easier now that roaming prices have dropped across the EU.

It is also clear that many consumers still believe data roaming is expensive even within the EU. For sure, data roaming can still add to the cost of a mobile phone bill, but what is often blatantly clear is that many consumers remain badly educated on what options they have.

Data roaming is not yet free of extra fees in the EU, but a lower cap of €0.24 per MB has been in place since July 1 and mobile operators have also been busy generating new price plans that include minutes, texts and data for use abroad.

It seems that they are still not getting the message across, as my own personal experience shows. It's no wonder when you consider how complex some of these roaming bundles are.

I had to re-read my own deal (of which I was kindly reminded by text) at least twice before it sank in. For sure, reminding subscribers of roaming options by text is a useful tool, but it would also help if the deals were a little more straightforward. More effort could also be made to illustrate how much data roaming really costs after an hour's Facebook surfing, for example, and what these "free" allowances actually enable you to do.

As things stand, I would suggest that fear of bill shock continues to prevail when it comes to roaming usage. It would benefit operators and consumers alike to be more aware of what the actual costs would be in order to allay fears and instil more confidence about roaming.--Anne