5/21/2009 12:34:00 PM
Free roaming for Vodafone users this summer
Vodafone’s move to drop mobile roaming charges for three months has prompted calls from regulators for other networks to follow suit.
The operator has also been criticised for not adopting a more long-term approach to the issue.
From the start of June until August 2009, Vodafone customers will be able to make calls while abroad using minutes from their call bundles without the usual 75p connection fee.
The move coincides with EU regulations that will cap the cost of SMS roaming, effective from July.
Consumer Focus, the consumer watchdog, expressed its approval of the move but called for a more long-term solution for pricing.
Consumer Focus’ customer relations expert, Audrey Gallacher, said: ‘We need to see permanent moves towards fair pricing and more transparent information on international roaming charges.’
Meanwhile, some were critical of Vodafone, labelling the move as a ‘PR stunt’ and a ‘gimmick’, offering little benefit to the end user. Ovum senior analyst Emeka Obiodu highlighted that cutting the price of calls and texts abroad would not be the catalyst for a customer to enter a Vodafone contract, or even to stay with the network.
Obiodu said other operators would be ‘wise to steer clear’ of emulating Vodafone, and added: ‘If this was worth doing, O2 would be doing it.’
One manufacturer source also doubted that other operators would follow Vodafone and said: ‘If I was an operator, I would adopt the EU strategy before the ruling and find a way of trumping Vodafone.’
Pressure on networks is mounting ahead of the new EU rules, intended to create more commercial competition among operators.
A spokesperson for the department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) said it welcomed Vodafone’s move as it creates ‘healthy competition within the telecommunications sector’.
Most operators will be reviewing their roaming policy as a result of the new rules. An Orange spokeswoman said the operator will be ‘making changes to the price of texts so we can meet the regulatory requirements from 1 July’.