You might remember that it was meant to be July 2014 when roaming would begin to be a thing of the past in Europe. When this date was pushed back, we thought it was likely that Neelie Kroes, the EU Commissioner, had had some tense meetings with people in dark suits. Now, even though the date has been pushed back to July 2016 – almost three years away – Vodafone and the EU are locked in a public battle.
Vodafone says that abolishing roaming charges is potentially illegal. The EU says that Vodafone is acting out of ‘naked self interest.’
Vodafone says they are not against roaming regulations. They are merely pointing out that the initiative might fall foul of anti-competition law and they would not want anything nasty to happen to Ms Kroes or her lovely team.
The EU says ‘pull the other one, it has bells on it.’ Specifically, Ryan Heath, Ms Kroes’ spokesman says that “Vodafone aren’t against roaming alliances. They just want a monopoly on them.”
According to ‘insiders’ the private phone calls to the EU have become apoplectic. Now the fight is in the public domain and being conducted in full sight of their customers. Clever.
We, and others, believe that we have reached a tipping point. Customers will leave data on while roaming if there are no surcharges. The data that can now be collected on what customers are doing abroad allows operators to offer a whole new range of products and services. If, as we have said before, Kroes has been nobbled by big business, it is indicative of the relative power of Colossae like Vodafone versus the lack of any real power from politicians.
It also throws a rather harsh light on whether operators are as keen on ‘enhancing the customer experience’ as they say they are. It is almost as if these giants of the telecoms world are scared of something. Undoubtedly abolishing roaming charges will bring fresh competition but competition is generally good for the big boys.
Unless something in the recent spate of news about mergers and acquisitions is causing some stressful nights. Perhaps large companies are suddenly finding that they are the hunted not the hunters. And the hunters are not traditional telecoms players.