The Week of Expensive Roaming Mistakes

Since we moved a step closer last year to a single European telecommunication market by (almost) treating voice calls and data use in the EU the same as in the home country, traveling in the EU has become so much more convenient. No need anymore for local pre-paid SIMs, extra phones and cumbersome setup procedures to keep costs down. But even a small step outside what is currently included painfully reminds one that we are nowhere near a single telecommunication market yet and network operators are using every opportunity to massively overcharge for their services.

Gotcha 1: EU Calls from the Home Country

When being in other EU countries frequently, one quite easily forgets that international calls with a mobile phone are only included in the monthly subscription when already abroad. While in the home country, calls to other destinations in the EU are NOT included in the monthly voice subscription and prices between 40 to 60 euros for a phone call to a destination in a neighboring country per hour are not the exception. That tiny mistake added 35 euros to the overall family telecommunication bill last month.

Gotacha 2: Be Sure Of The Country That Airport Is In

Unfortunately, not all countries in Europe are part of the EU. Switzerland is an example. In some places, Switzerland shares the border with two other countries (e.g. France and Germany) and it gets a bit messy on the airwaves. Also, when space it at a premium, airports are built across country borders. Basel in Switzerland is such an example. Basel airport is at the border and when you leave the airport building, there are two doors, one to enter France and one to enter Switzerland. Totally bizarre from today’s perspective. Unfortunately, mobile networks do not care and if your mobile device decides to use the ‘wrong’ network, voice calls are not free but we are talking again about 40-60 euros per hour. Add another 10 euros extra on the monthly bill.

Gotcha 3: Being in Switzerland for a Week

While my current mobile contract treats Switzerland, the US and a couple of other destinations like I was in my home country, other family members are not so fortunate. With their subscription, they pay €1.49 per minute (!!!) for phone calls from Switzerland back home. That is 90 euros per hour. No business from us then I guess. Well not quite, we at least took that 10 euro bolt-on to get a few MB of data to keep the messaging client, email and mobile surfing going on the phone.

For phone calls we used the French subscription instead. Phone calls on that subscription were 6 cents a minute to Germany but data was charged. So we went for the 35 euros option for free calls in Switzerland to the EU and 2GB of data per month. Another 35 euros on the bill… Just for comparison, the monthly fee for that subscription is 19 euros with all voice calls included and 20 GB of data.

And needless to say that while activating the option was easily done via the web portal, there is no similarly simple way to deactivate it again. Instead, we had to call customer support.

Still a lot to do here…