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    Roaming charge to cause mass defections from UK MNOs after summer hols – report

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    Roaming charges are last straw in tense relationship

    UK mobile operators should expect a wave of defections this summer, according to a new study commissioned by Lyca Mobile. The cause of the divorce is a myriad of issues around the re-introduction of roaming charges, which people feel have been dishonestly presented. 

    As people across the UK face galloping inflation and soaring energy bills, consumers want better value from the suppliers in their life, the better to keep household costs as low as possible. Mobile phone brands cynically used the Brexit controversy as a justification for raising prices. They may find they have strained their ‘customer relationship’ by cheating on their customers, according to the study. 

    As British prime minister Boris Johnson is forced to resign for an infidelity too many, the report suggested that relationships between mobile operators and their subscribers can snap and, as with human relationships, things come to a head after a holiday. 

    Research was commissioned by Lyca Mobile, the world’s largest mobile virtual network operator (MVNO), as it sought to examine how austerity has strained relationships between customers and mobile network operators (MNOs). From May 19th to 1st June independent research company Censuswide quizzed 1,012 contract customers of VodafoneO2EE and Three. It sought to discover if subscribers will stay with a company if it imposes roaming charges and why they might leave.

    Roughly half (44%) said the return of roaming charges made them think about switching providers. Many thought that the big four mobile network operators were using Brexit as an excuse for price hikes. Roughly a third (36%) pointed out that free roaming tariffs were being offered by alternative providers and the collusion by the big players could prompt them to switch.  

    In a free market the consumer is only empowered if they have perfect information for their buying decisions, but the survey sample say they were confused about roaming charges. Half (51%) of the UK’s mobile contract customers (if this survey accurately reflects national sentiment) don’t know if their provider has reintroduced roaming charges and a minority (39%) feel confident they understand how much they will pay for roaming in the EU.

    Two-thirds (65%) of respondents cited the current cost of living crisis as the economic factor making them most likely to reconsider their phone contract. Given that roaming fees could add more than £100 to the cost of a two-week holiday for a family of four in Europe, phone bills are increasingly hitting the bottom line, and pushing up unnecessary costs for holidaymakers, claimed Lyca in a statement.

    Lyca Mobile is one of the few operators to resist the temptation to exploit customers over EU roaming charges. It sells SIM cards which include a bundle of 100 minutes to cover emergencies. Lyca Mobile Group chairman Allirajah Subaskaran said the company is helping to bring down costs for UK customers as the cost-of-living crisis bites. 

    “Roaming charges for travelling in the EU are yet another blow to people so we have not reintroduced them. [Affording a holiday] shouldn’t be the preserve of the few,” said Lyca Mobile chairman, Allirajah Subaskaran.

    Escalating costs and roaming charges are having a concrete impact on how holidaymakers plan to use their phones in the EU. In an effort to bring down costs, consumers are looking to limit the amount of data used when on holiday, with 43% planning to rely solely on Wi-Fi and 11% planning to go off-grid altogether to avoid charges. 

    Some consumers plan to go even further to avoid costs with 19% of people considering buying local SIM cards to get around charges when abroad. This is a significant change for many, with 75% stating they had not bought local SIM cards before. 

    The reintroduction of roaming fees by operators is having an impact and they are a major issue for consumers. But they can, and will, take action, as consumers seek better value from their mobile provider,” said Lyca Mobile chairman, Allirajah Subaskaran.