Data roaming charges still set to be abolished within the EU by June 2017

As the ban gets closer and closer, we are almost half way through the 14-month interim period. During this interim period, companies are still allowed to add surcharges, but at a reduced rate. The European Commission reckons this alone will make roaming within the EU 75% cheaper than at present.

From April 2016, telecoms operators will be able to add a surcharge of no more than:

€0.05 (3.5p)extra per minute for calls
€0.02 (2p)extra per SMS sent
€0.05 (3.5p)extra per megabyte of data used

Here at Equinox we believe this will be a good thing but it still does leave a number of questions unanswered:

1. What will happen to roaming charges elsewhere?

The EU has forced mobile companies to cut roaming costs before. When they did, many customers saw an increase in roaming costs for other parts of the world.

2. Why is it taking so long?

The EU has taken a clear stand on this issue. Roaming costs are to be abolished. So, why do we have to wait two years for it to happen? Sure, costs will drop in the interim. But 24 months is still quite a wait.

3. What happens to people mid-way through a contract?

Many mobile contracts include data roaming bundles, usually sold to customers on the basis that they’re cheaper than standard roaming costs. Will the operators reduce the price for customers with these packages?

4. What about making calls?

While the elimination of data roaming costs is certainly to be welcomed, what about the cost of making and receiving calls? If the principle applies to these too, shouldn’t roaming costs for voice calls be abolished?

Finally, with the UK’s planned EU referendum as a backdrop for these changes, what will happen if the UK decides to leave the EU? Could we end up with new roaming charges, just as the rules abolishing them come into force?

New Year’s Telecoms Resolutions

I know it’s a bit late for anything that involves New Year’s resolutions, but I must admit I am excited on how things are going this year. It’s never too late to change with regards to your Telecoms, here are my top 5 New Year’s resolutions for businesses.

First Telecoms resolution

When did you last test your Customers’ experience by calling your own company – often this is potential customers first experience of dealing with your company. If you use auto prompts are they easy to use or do they ask for information that then has to be repeated when you speak to a real person. Does the person you speak to create the impression you want for your business and finally if you use an answering service are they creating the right impression for your company?

Second Telecoms Resolution

Have you got the right technology to allow staff to be more productive and that customers get the best service? Technology costs that enable home working and working on the move have fallen dramatically. Call recording to review the quality of customer service and video conferencing / webinar services to reduce travel costs were previously the preserve of large companies. They have got dramatically cheaper and are available for small monthly fees. Investments need to be justified by returns but because costs have fallen it is worth revisiting these areas.

Third Telecoms resolution

If you use 0843, 0844, 0845 or 09 numbers to front your business – is it enhancing or being detrimental to customer perception. Also is it compliant with Ofcom rules. From 1st July 2015 you must show in close proximity to it i.e. web, cards, vehicles, hoardings the cost of calling it. Our research showed that 75% of small businesses were in breach. At some point Ofcom will start issuing fines so make sure you check. Big firms are also guilty I saw yesterday a Barrett’s hoarding with an 0843 number and no details on the costs.

Fourth telecoms Resolution

The unfortunate events in Cumbria and Yorkshire have highlighted that businesses of any size should have a continuity plan that covers Telecoms? What would you do if you couldn’t access your premises or services are interrupted – lorry knocks over a BT cabinet (that’s happened)? Do you have a plan that enables you to answer calls from customers or suppliers? If not, they may go elsewhere? There are plenty of solutions to improve resilience which cost a lot less than lost business. Create one for your business and make sure everyone knows it.

Fifth telecoms Resolution

When was the last time you really checked your phone bills and not just make the payment? How do you know your provider has not put up the prices since contract was signed? It happens all the time.

Are there hidden charges they didn’t tell you about i.e. minimum call fees? Do you still need all those lines or handsets – 1 in 7 companies is paying for stuff they don’t use. It is a competitive market place so how do you know if prices have fallen, are you still getting a good deal. One of the deadly sins is sloth – don’t let it apply to taking time to check your bills.

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Are you risking a fine from Ofcom?

ofcomTelecoms regulator Ofcom’s clear calling rules came into force on July 1 and they require companies that have 084, 087, 09 or 118 phone numbers to make consumers aware of how much it will cost to dial them. These numbers are used for customer information and complaint lines, directories and even to vote on TV talent shows. However, our research shows that 65 per cent of the firms that use these service numbers have no information on the cost of calls on their websites.

This potentially leaves them open to being fined by Ofcom.

Although the regulator acknowledged that printed material would take time to correct and for existing stocks to be used up, it wanted websites to be changed to show call charges immediately.

Our research made it quite clear that the majority of companies (that offer service numbers), particularly smaller ones have not made the necessary changes and as such are leaving themselves open to fines.

It could be argued that Ofcom could have done a better job in promoting the scope of the changes as could the telecom providers of the numbers themselves. However, ultimate responsibility lies with the companies themselves.

Of the more than 500 firms surveyed, the research found that only 100 used the costly numbers but 2/3rds of them were not following Ofcom’s rules.

This raises the question as to why some firms expect their customers to pay extra when calling to buy their products or services, when others use standard geographic or 0800 numbers, which are free to call from landlines or now also from mobiles.

According to Ofcom, consumers pay around £2 billion to use service and premium numbers, accounting for 12 per cent of all call traffic volumes.

If you are concerned about your use of premium rate numbers, give us a call and let’s make sure you aren’t risking a fine from Ofcom.