Three U-turn sees roaming data limits bumped back up

19 May 2017

Roaming. Image: RossHelen/Shutterstock

Three has revised its data roaming plans in the wake of fresh interpretation of EU laws, and clear customer dissatisfaction.

For the interminably arduous route from extortionate roaming charges to a more friendly ‘free transfer of people, goods and services’ set-up, the end is in sight.

However, the trip has seen some casualties along the way – and not just customers paying extra for checking their emails either side of what are nominal trade borders.

For example, when Irish mobile operators showed their hand in March, various approaches were taken.

Vodafone took the ‘roam like at home’ ethos for the impending June changes to EU regulation, in what appeared to be a customer-friendly spirit, as like-for-like rules were announced for those on Red Connect tariffs.

The company is helped by internet infrastructure across much of the EU, thus it was in a better position than most when providing better terms for customers.

Three, on the other hand, took a more interesting approach, scything through what many hoped would be generous data allocations. Its interpretation, at the time, was that ‘all you can eat’ would be an Irish, domestic add-on.

With a lower threshold as the legitimate plan, that was what would be matched across the EU. At the time, it called this “a generous allocation”, including 1GB of free data for those on a €30 monthly bill plan.

Things have changed in the weeks since, as a subsequent report on the incoming EU rules clarified how to interpret the fair use policy.

These guidelines, issued by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), came out after Three’s initial moves, meaning the weeks in between have been pretty painful for the company as customers enjoyed the freedom to walk from changed contracts.

“Three has confirmed that it will introduce beneficial changes to some customers as part of the new EU roaming regulation, which comes into effect in June,” said the company in a statement today.

“In addition to continuing to enjoy all you can eat (AYCE) data as part of their plan, Three will be applying the EU roaming regulation fair use policy to AYCE data for customers when roaming in the EU. Customers will be updated shortly on how these positive changes will benefit them.”

The new terms will see prepay customers that spend €20 per month avail of 5GB worth of roaming data, with bill-pay customers enjoying up to 7GB, depending on their plan.

“Three continues to be the only mobile operator to offer AYCE data. The application of the fair use policy means that customers can now also access generous volumes of data when roaming in the EU,” said the company.

Updated, 1.45pm, 19 May 2017: This article was updated to reflect the BEREC guidelines being a clarification on the fair use policy, not ruling any stance as impermissible.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic