Free roaming and flight compensation: How the EU has changed your life

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Free roaming and flight compensation: How the EU has changed your life
A picture taken on February 6, 2020 in Brussels shows plugs for mobile charger next to a European flag. The European Parliament demanded that the EU urgently force tech companies to adopt a universal charger, setting up a clash with Apple and its widely used iPhone connector cable. (Photo by Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP)

With Europeans heading to the polls for the EU-wide parliament elections, it's a good time to remind ourselves of how the bloc has changed life for consumers.


One currency

The Deutsche mark, the franc, the Italian lira and the peseta are distant memories.

Two decades ago, countries began to ditch their national currencies to adopt the euro.

Today, 20 of the European Union's 27 members use the euro as their sole legal tender.

Money transfers can now be made without fees between eurozone countries while travellers no longer have to worry about foreign exchange rates.

The euro has even gained acceptance in Germany, Europe's biggest economy, whose citizens had initially feared the currency would cause prices to rise.

Germans nicknamed the euro the "teuro" -- a play on words that combines "euro" with the German word for "expensive" "teuer".

The debt crisis that hit Greece and other eurozone nations in the 2010s put the currency through its biggest test, but countries launched financial support measures to help their neighbours and fend off fears of a breakup of the monetary union.

Europeans do not seem to miss their old currencies: a European Commission survey in late 2023 showed that 79 percent of people living in the eurozone believe the euro is a good thing for the EU.


Free roaming

The end of roaming fees across the EU in 2017 was a life-changer for the bloc's residents.

People no longer have to worry about running up expensive phone bills when crossing borders.

Kevin Eon, a Frenchman who works at a startup based in the Netherlands, kept his French phone number after his move, saving him the trouble of acquiring a local SIM card.

"It makes life easier," Eon said. "It's a huge time saver."

One phone charger

Another phone revolution is a rule coming into force later this year imposing one type of charger for all portable electronic devices.

All manufacturers selling in the bloc will be obliged to use the USB-C port on phones, tablets, speakers and other portable tech.

Most devices already use these cables, but Apple was more than a little reluctant.

The firm said in 2021 that such regulation "stifles innovation", but by September last year it had begun shipping phones with the new port.

Flight compensation

The EU has taken steps to protect the rights of air travellers.

Airlines must compensate passengers between €250 and €600 ($270 and $650) in case of long delays or flight cancellations.

Companies are also required to provide beverages, meals and accommodation, if necessary.

Airlines, however, can cite "extraordinary circumstances" to avoid compensating passengers, frequently leading to legal disputes.

Cookie consent

Since 2018, the EU's general data protection regulation (GDPR) forces websites to ask for consent before installing "cookies" -- the programmes that track internet activity in order to create targeted advertising.

Instead, people now have to deal with pop-up windows that ask them for consent.

"It's annoying sometimes. Other times, I don't care," said Marta Riboni, a 27-year-old Italian. "It depends how much time I have."


Comments (2)

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Ruth Rainero 2024/06/07 16:47
The correction hasn't yet been made: It still says that "teuer" means "cheap" when it's actually the opposite. Probably the same root as "dear", which is used in the UK as a synonym for "expensive".
Michael 2024/06/07 13:06
„Teuer“ in German means expensive. „Cheap“ as you wrote here means „billig“ or „günstig“ in German. What you probably wanted to convey is a common observation in Germany, that most everyday goods became more expensive upon the introduction of the Euro.
  • ben.mcpartland 2024/06/07 14:10
    THanks for pointing out. Corrected now.

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