Consumer watchdog urges Swiss government to cap mobile roaming charges

A Swiss consumer rights group has called on the government to impose limits on mobile phone roaming charges, complaining that users are being ripped off

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Put simply, roaming tariffs in Switzerland are exorbitantly expensive. They are cash cows for telecom providers,” Sara Stalder, head of the Swiss Consumer Protection Foundation, told Swiss public television SRF on Friday about Switzerland mobile roaming prices.

The foundation said that Swiss consumers had to pay up to 975 times the standard fee for internet surfing abroad on their smartphones if they do not have a data package or have no access to wifi. This is equivalent to the price of a coffee rising from CHF4.50 to CHF4,390, the watchdog said in a statement.

Switzerland mobile roaming

In the European Union, consumers are protected by regulations external link within EU member states.

The issue is hardly new in Switzerland, but has come to the boil once again with the revised Telecommunications Act poised to go live this year. The Consumer Protection Foundation has challenged the government to intervene directly on the issue of prices.

It is leaning on a legal opinion from a Swiss law professor to challenge the government’s previous assertions that it does not have the power to impose price limits on the free market. This opinion is tied to the wording of the Telecommunications Act that is currently in consultation phase before being implemented.

The consumer watchdog is adding its weight to the consultation process with the aim of forcing the government to accept its interpretation of the powers of the Act.

A current analysis by the telecom comparison service shows that the telecom providers sometimes demand massive roaming tariffs: a prepaid customer from Salt, for example, pays 19.95 francs for a data package of 1 GB (= 1024 MB) for the EU countries. Without a data packet, he surfs at the standard tariff and pays CHF 19 for 1 MB, around 975 times more. It’s like if the coffee in the restaurant suddenly cost CHF 4,390 instead of CHF 4,50.

The other telecom providers also have excessive tariffs: Sunrise charges its prepaid customers about 68 times more for the Internet tariff in the EU with the standard tariff than with the data package, and 31 times more for Swisscom (also prepaid customers). With the UPC subscriptions, the standard tariff in the USA and Canada is around 263 times higher than the data package tariff. If you assume that the telecom providers will make a profit by selling a data package, the margins for the standard tariff must be astronomically high. Is this the end of Switzerland mobile roaming charges? Astronomical ones.

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