End of roaming charges in the EU in 2017

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The European Commission announced today that Europeans will be able to make calls, use data, and send texts without any additional roaming charges anywhere in the European Union once new rules come into force next June.

As announced by President Juncker in his State of the Union Address, Members of the College today discussed a revised draft of the rules needed to avoid abuses of the end of roaming charges in time for June 2017.

Today the College discussed a new approach to the fair use principle and agreed that there should be no limits in terms of timing or volume imposed on consumers when using their mobile devices abroad in the EU. At the same time, the new approach provides a solid safeguard mechanism for operators against potential abuses.

This new mechanism will be based on principle of residence or stable links European consumers may have with any EU Member State (frequent and substantial presence in the Member State of the roaming provider, for example).

The Commission’s latest proposal replaces its earlier idea, which was to limit the number of days Europeans could roam to 90 days per year, which Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker reportedly scrapped at the last minute and demanded an overhaul.

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said:

Parliament and Council agreed on our proposal to end roaming charges for travellers in the EU. Together we need to ensure low prices for users all across Europe, to make full use of new mobile services. European consumers would not accept it otherwise.”

Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, said:

Commission action on roaming prices has delivered for European consumers. Today’s draft rules ensure we can end roaming charges as of 15 June 2017 for all people who travel periodically in the EU, while ensuring that operators have the tools to guard against abuse of the rules.”

The College of Commissioners discussed draft rules that will enable all travellers using a SIM card of a Member State in which they reside or with which they have stable links to use their mobile device in any other EU country, just as they would at home.

Examples of “stable links” include work commuters, expats who are frequently present in their home country or Erasmus students. Europeans will pay domestic prices when they call, text or go online from their mobile devices and will have full access to other parts of their mobile subscription (e.g. monthly data package).

The College of Commissioners will adopt the final proposal by 15 December 2016, following feedback from BEREC (Body of European Regulators in Electronic Communications), Member States and all interested parties.

Strong safeguards for operators

1) Safeguards against abuses based on residence or permanent links to an EU country

Roaming is for travellers. The new draft allows operators to check usage patterns to avoid the “Roam like at Home” mechanism is abused. A non-exhaustive list of criteria includes:

  • insignificant domestic traffic compared to roaming traffic;
  • long inactivity of a given SIM card associated with use mostly, if not exclusively, while roaming;
  • subscription and sequential use of multiple SIM cards by the same customer while roaming.

In such cases, operators will have to alert their users. Only if these conditions are met, operators will be able to apply small surcharges (the Commission proposed a maximum of €0.04/min per call, €0.01/SMS and €0.0085/MB). In case of disagreement, complaints procedures must be put in place by the operator. If the dispute persists the customer may complain to the national regulatory authority which will settle the case.

Abuses could also be related to the mass purchase and resale of SIM cards for permanent use outside the country of the operator issuing them. In such cases, the operator will be allowed to take immediate and proportionate measures while informing the national regulator.

2) Safeguards in case of exceptional circumstances in the domestic markets

In case of price increases on a specific market or other negative effects for their domestic customers, operators can get out of the “Roam like at Home” provision allowing them, if authorised by national regulators, to temporarily apply the same small surcharges (the Commission proposed a maximum of €0.04/min per call, €0.01/SMS and €0.0085/MB). Operators will have to provide evidence to demonstrate that “Roam like at Home” was putting their domestic charging model at risk.

For a decade, the Commission has been working to reduce thesurcharges that telecoms operators imposed on their customers each time they crossed a border while using their mobile device on holiday or during business trips. Since 2007, roaming prices have decreased by more than 90%. In 2015, and based on a proposal of the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council agreed to end roaming charges for people who travel periodically in the EU. “Roam like at Home” – where customers pay domestic prices, irrespective of where they are traveling in the EU – will become a reality for all European travellers by June 2017.

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