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Talk as long as you like, but carry a big stick

02 has finally bowed to EC pressure and cut its voice roaming charges. Now we need to see action on data
Written by Leader , Contributor

Press Release: 19th October 2006:
H2S Mobile Incorporated is proud to announce that it has become the first telecoms provider to stop hitting its customers on the head with big sticks. Building on H2S's history of innovation, the "concussion-free" service launched across our stores this week is further proof of our proactive approach to customer retention.

"Some industry commentators, and rivals, have erroneously claimed that our decision to stop attacking our customers with lengths of two by four is simply a reaction to the recent EC investigation into 'retail beatings' but H2S refutes such claims. We are a company that believes in putting our users first and not hitting them with big sticks is just another example of that." — Norma Sporquees, H2S Mobile spokesman.

The definition of chutzpah is a child who murders both his parents and then asks for leniency on the grounds that he's been recently orphaned. It should now be extended to mobile operators who, like T-Mobile, claim that slashing mobile charges a hairsbreadth ahead of European regulation on the issue, proves that no regulation is necessary.

Let's be generous. The news that O2 has decided to stop charging its customers excessive fees for roaming is undoubtedly an important step forward for the industry - and that's as far as our generosity stretches. It is simply the first of the mobile operators to blink in the game of chicken being played out with EC regulators. Now one of their number has broken ranks, the rest will be forced to follow.

But while O2 may have been prepared to move on voice, data roaming continues to be scandalously expensive. ZDNet UK has received numerous complaints from readers stung by prohibitive and often hidden data costs. O2 has admitted that cutting voice charges will help with customer retention and be profit-neutral - in stark contrast to industry claims of hideous losses should this extremely lucrative seam be closed down.

So why hasn't it applied the same logic to data roaming? O2 and the other operators seem content to charge the small pool of mainly business users massively inflated prices rather than reduce the costs and grow a market that, if they're to be believed, they're keen to see prosper.  

They won't have long to exercise their freedom of choice. The European Commission has discovered just how effective hitting people over the head with a big stick can be. Best get your capitulation in first, chaps.


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