Consumer prices in Switzerland are renowned for being high compared to neighbouring countries. But the tide is finally turning for telephony, which is traditionally ranked as one of the worst consumer pricing offenders, especially with roaming charges.
High telephone tariffs and a lack of cost control meant that for a long time, Swiss travellers faced extremely high data roaming charges after returning from abroad. Primarily because of Internet use (data roaming), high roaming bills were an issue for years. Examples of consumers paying several thousands of Swiss francs for their phone bills after vacations were not uncommon. However, things have now finally changed. Here a brief synopsis:
- A major breakthrough came in 2011, when Swisscom became the first provider in Switzerland to cap telephone roaming charges. This meant that as soon as a certain invoice amount was reached, roaming charges were automatically blocked.
- The next two providers to follow suit after discussions with Consumer Protection, were Sunrise and Orange (now Salt).
- Due entirely to the commitment of Consumer Protection, since July 2021 every telecom provider in Switzerland, now has to offer a roaming cost limit for data and telephony. This amount can be set by the consumers themselves.
- The Salt company has now also finally joined other Swiss telecom providers offering genuine EU-wide subscriptions at competitive prices. This also includes for the UK.
- Previously, some consumers were caught out with excess roaming charges even with with a CHF1’000 per month default limit in place, and when inside Switzerland near a border, where the mobile cell “switched” to a foreign roaming aerial thereby causing excessive roaming charges.
- As a result, Salt has now reduced its default spend limit to CHF 250 data and CHF 250 calls. They have also considerably improved their customer support and web application.
- This move now brings Switzerland broadly in line with other EU countries, although it is still advisable for anyone with a Swiss contract to reduce their charge limits to near zero even if not travelling abroad, just in case the contract perimeter is somehow exceeded.
So what are some other recent changes?
- With Salt’s new cell phone subscriptions, Internet use abroad is now only possible if the data credit is included in the subscription or purchased for a fixed amount in advance – effectively protecting customers from high roaming bills.
- According to Sara Stalder, Executive Director of Consumer Protection, this principle is not new, and Swisscom and Sunrise already switched to this payment method, but this step nevertheless represents a change of era: Mrs Stalder continued: “We are glad that we have now also found a solution with Salt and that this problem has finally been solved for all telecom customers.”
- Also according to Mrs Stadler , “The cost limit not only applies to data roaming, but also to calls. It also prevents high bills from providers where Internet use abroad is still possible even without an option.”
- The consumer protection expert also pointed out that the above is the case with UPC, older subscriptions and prepaid solutions from yallo and Lebara, the Salt brand GoMo, and all Salt customers who do not switch to the subscriptions now available.
- If customers do not change the cost limit, the preset limit will come into effect. This is comparatively low for Sunrise (CHF 100) and Swisscom (CHF 200) customers, and highest for Salt at CHF 500, according to an analysis by the consumer protection agency.
According to Sara Stalder, even though there are still overpriced rates for roaming, high roaming bills are a thing of the past. But this doesn’t mean that the telephone company margins are not still extremely high in some cases. And any anxious parents dreading their teenage children’s phone bills when they return from their first vacation out to the country, might do well to remember what the famous singer Jimmy Buffet once said: “If the phone doesn’t ring, it’s me!”
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