As the EU gears itself up to impose significantly lower roaming charges on European operators, Vodafone has decided to beat the EU at its own game and abolish roaming costs for three months starting 1 June. However, the company has hinted that, if this bold marketing action is successful, it might extend the offer or introduce similar initiatives.
While the company insists this move has not been provoked by the impending EU rules, the timing of Vodafone's decision to temporarily drop the charges for its Passport scheme will be viewed by other operators as little more than a cheap marketing trick--but one they'll need to respond to. Users of Vodafone's Passport service can opt in for free but then normally pay a 75p set-up fee for each call, with the conversation then governed by their UK price plan.
According to Ian Shepherd, director of Vodafone UK, the underlying reason behind the new scheme was to draw attention to Vodafone Passport. "It's way ahead of the EU roaming regulations and we're showcasing that, and the fact that it's free to opt in. Also, if you're going to do a promotion like this, summer is the time to do it, and we're hoping to get those Vodafone customers that don't have Passport to join it, as well as enticing new customers."
However, Shepherd admitted the period Passport set-up charges would remain at zero was still up for discussion. "We've just launched the promotion, and we're going to see how it goes. We're hoping many more opt in to Vodafone Passport, so we'll make a judgement on dropping the charges altogether in the future."
Commenting on the recent EU decision, Shepherd claimed the proposed reductions to roaming costs were not really relevant to this promotion. "We're continually ahead of the regulations, but the decision to run this promotion was not driven by the regulations but competition."
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