A Premium Price for Irish Text Messages

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Want to send a text message in Irish? Irish mobile phone users recently awakened to an unpleasant truth: it’s much more expensive to send a text in Irish than it is in English. In fact, according to the Belfast Telegraph, it’s cheaper to send a picture message than it is to send a full-length text in Irish.

The culprit? A little accent mark called the síneadh fada that distinguishes between long and short vowels in the Irish language. You wouldn’t think that a little dash should be that expensive to send over the airwaves, but according to Irish mobile phone carriers Vodafone and o2, it is. That’s because accented vowels are not part of the standard SMS alphabet. Basically, they aren’t recognized as text, and so require more data to transmit.

A spokeswoman for Vodafone explained the company’s logic:

“If a customer is texting in Irish and they type the full 160 characters, a standard text message, that includes at least one fada, they will be charged for three text messages.”

Still, it seems odd that sending a text with accented characters would cost more than sending a picture. Also, in the Republic of Ireland, where Irish is one of the official languages, it rubs Irish speakers the wrong way to be charged more for a service than their exclusively English-speaking brethren.

The Belfast Telegraph reports that other countries facing the same issue have resorted to regulations to solve the problem:

Under regulations in Turkey, both mobile phone device producers and operators must allow the devices to use Turkish characters without an extra charge. Any devices that don’t comply are not allowed on to the Turkish market. Similar initiatives have taken place in Spain and Portugal.

However, since the mobile carriers are private businesses, the relevant Irish regulatory bodies have so far been reluctant to interfere.

What do you think? Should this particular cost be passed on to Irish consumers?