Friday 16 November 2018 08:30:37 PM

Roaming Charges In Border Areas an Issue Says Sinn Fein
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SINN Féin representatives  South Down MLA Chris Hazzard MLA and Newry and Mourne Councillor Michael Ruane have met with Ofcom officials at Stormont to discuss the rising level of inadvertent mobile roaming charges incurred by South Down residents.
It’s a sound that we all hate to hear when driving along the border area from Newry and further… that ping on you mobile phone that says you have a message on your text or email saying your mobile service provider is charging you on the basis you have been over the border when you clearly haven’t.dn_screen
Following the latest Ofcom Market Report that illustrates that more than a third of mobile users in South Down experience inadvertent roaming on a daily basis, the two Sinn Féin representatives asked for a meeting with the Regulator.
Mr Hazzard said: “I was relieved to hear from Ofcom that they are putting pressure on the mobile operators to address the rising costs of inadvertent roaming in South Down. Despite the EU Commission’s lowering of the maximum roaming rates that operators can charge, Ofcom’s research clearly illustrates that South Down mobile users are being charged huge sums despite the fact that they are not in fact roaming across the border.
“I am delighted that Ofcom have agreed to write to mobile operators across Ireland and the UK asking what steps they are taking to eradicate such costly anomalies, and to relay such information to local users in South Down.
“With the report also illustrating that at least 45% of users avoid making calls or sending texts across the affected areas in South Down, I will be speaking to the Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development to see if anything can be done to tackle the obvious rural isolation that results from such huge inadvertent charges.”
Mr Hazzard added: “In today’s age of widespread mobile connectivity it is unacceptable that there are so many mobile black spots across South Down that in effect force mobile devices to lock into southern networks. Given the huge costs to local residents I will be raising this issue with the relevant Minsiters in the weeks and months ahead.”
Councillor Ruane said: “I wasn’t surprised to read that local residents are paying up to £300 per year on inadvertent roaming charges, it’s an issue that I have raised with mobile operators over the last few years and I am delighted that Ofcom have finally pinpointed it as an issue that needs urgent attention.
“Local people often think that roaming charges are an occupational hazard associated with living and working in South Down, I am sure they are relieved to see that it doesn’t have to be the case and that work is being done in Stormont and Europe to eradicate the financial impact of living in a border area.
“I want to thank Ofcom officials for taking the time to meet with us to discuss these issues, and I look forward to working with them in the weeks ahead as we continue to tackle this costly issue.”