High Swedish prices put Norwegians off cross-border shopping trips

Norwegians are spending less money cross-border shopping in neighbouring Sweden, the latest figures from Norway's national data agency show. 

Pictured are Norwegian and Swedish flags.
Norwegians are going on less cross-border shopping trips to Sweden. Pictured are the Norwegian and Swedish flags on Svinesund bridge. Photo by Petter Bernsten / AFP

Locals in east Norway have long enjoyed the tradition of heading to Sweden for cheaper goods and a more varied product selection. Last year, they spent an estimated 10.4 billion kroner on cross-border shopping trips, figures from the national data agency Statistics Norway show. 

However, this is still significantly lower than the previous record set in 2019, Statistics Norway reports. 

“When all the travel restrictions were removed on February 12th last year, cross-border trade picked up again, but Norwegians traded less across the border than was usual before the outbreak of the pandemic. Compared to the record year 2019, the trading amount was 35 percent lower in 2022,” Kristin Aasestad from Statistics Norway said of the figures. 

Additionally, the data shows that Norwegians went on fewer trips across the border for shopping in 2022 compared to the record year of 2019. Overall, the number of trips decreased by just over 40 percent between 2019 and 2022. 

One explanation for the decline in Norwegians heading across to neighbouring Sweden to stock up on groceries is a sharp increase in food prices, meaning that Swedish food prices are no longer significantly lower than in Norway. 

According to Statistics Norway’s figures, food and non-alcoholic beverages in Sweden increased in price by 14.2 percent between 2019 and 2022. Meanwhile, the cost of food in Norway increased by 7.2 percent during the same period. Furthermore, the average spend on a shopping trip abroad has increased from 1,690 kroner in 2019 to 1,835 kroner last year. 

“One explanation for why Norwegians spend more money on each shopping trip may be related to the sharp increase in the price of groceries in Sweden and not necessarily that Norwegians put more in the shopping basket,” Aasestad. 

Just under 97 percent of all shopping trips abroad by Norwegians were to Sweden last year, with Strømstad and Charlottenberg being the two most popular destinations with Norwegians.

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Why are mobile plans in Norway so expensive?

Compared to those in neighbouring countries, the prices of mobile plans in Norway are pretty high. Here's why.

Why are mobile plans in Norway so expensive?

Once you move to Norway, getting a Norwegian phone number will likely be among the first items on your to-do list.

After some research and comparison of different plans, you’ll quickly realise that the price of mobile services in the country is quite high – even compared to prices in other Scandinavian countries.

The most recent study on the issue, carried out by the Norwegian Communications Authority (Nkom), stated that the price of mobile services is so high compared to neighbouring countries that there is a need to regulate the mobile market in Norway.

Key drivers of high mobile prices

The Norwegian mobile services market is characterised by what many describe as a duopoly – Telenor and Telia (which also own several other mobile providers) have a highly dominant position in the marketplace.

On top of that, mobile service customers in Norway are quite reluctant to change their providers.

According to the Communications Authority, Norwegian end users of mobile plans are generally most concerned with mobile coverage when choosing a mobile services company, and surveys show that Telenor’s customers have strong preferences for Telenor’s network, which means that many do not want to switch to other providers.

Furthermore, the cost of developing infrastructure in Norway is considerably more expensive than in neighbouring countries.

In 2021, Telia Norge stated that, according to European Union (EU) calculations, “it is between 30-60 per cent more expensive to build infrastructure in Norway than in Sweden.”

Lastly, as operators often point out, customers have to pay high prices because the network in Norway is characterised by high speeds.

What can be done?

The Norwegian Consumer Council believes that only increased competition in the market can reduce the price difference between Norway and the rest of the region.

As any new competitor would also need to deal with the high expenses of building new infrastructure – often in areas where the customer base doesn’t justify such investments – the consumer watchdog is calling for the dominant players to share some of their infrastructure with would-be challengers.

Unless competition increases, the situation is likely to stay the same.

“Telenor still has a strong market position in Norway, and no other mobile provider in Norway or our neighbouring countries has as good earnings per customer as Telenor in Norway,” Inger Vollstad, section head at Nkom, noted in a recent press release.

Need for regulation?

As the authority for the sector, Nkom is charged with ensuring that Norwegian consumers receive good and affordable mobile services.

The authority’s most important goal when it comes to regulating the mobile services market in Norway is to facilitate a third competitive mobile network that can challenge the two established network owners, Telenor and Telia.

“In order to facilitate choice and reasonable prices for mobile customers, Nkom has imposed obligations on Telenor to provide access to its network.

“In this way, challengers who do not have their own mobile network can offer mobile services and contribute to competition in the retail market,” Vollstad said.

In any case, as duopolies are very hard to dismantle once market domination is in place, even regulatory action could take quite some time before end consumers feel the results in the form of lower prices and better offers.

How to find a cheaper deal

Remember, the fact that the general price level of mobile plans is high does not mean you should just accept the first plan you see.

Compare prices between different providers before you commit, and make sure of comparison sites (such as Fornye) to get a good market overview. That way, you’ll be sure to get a better deal.

Negotiating with your current provider is also an option. If you’re unhappy with the price, call them up and ask them for a better deal. This works particularly well if you can point to a better deal from a competitor and threaten to leave them.