EU reaches agreement to abolish roaming charges by June 2017
The EU has reached an agreement to abolish roaming charges across Europe from June 2017.
It was announced today that the European Commission, Parliament, and Council had come to an agreement which would see roaming charges in the EU abolished entirely within a number of years. The announcement follows a statement from the European Council earlier this year in which it was indicated that the charges would remain in some form until 2018, but today’s agreement brings that date forward by more than a year.
The EU has worked steadily over the past number of years to tackle roaming charges on behalf of consumers. Since the 2007 introduction of the Eurotariff, charges have been consistently reduced as caps were placed on the maximum permissible amount operators could impose on consumers. The most recent reduction came into effect in July 2014. These caps have seen fees for roaming drop by 80% since 2007, with data roaming charges in particular falling by up to 91%. For context, the data roaming market has grown by 630% in that time period.
As part of its Connected Continent drive, the EU is working to develop a telecoms single market. Ending roaming charges has been a priority for some time, as it seeks to remove barriers to mobile phone use abroad. It is hoped that not only will this alleviate a burden on consumers, but also provide greater accessibility for businesses and start-ups to sell online to consumers travelling abroad.
Today’s agreement will see roaming charges cease to exist in the EU from 15th June 2017. In order to achieve this, a number of technical conditions must be fulfilled. Most particularly, the institutions are seeking a thorough review of the wholesale roaming market so as to ensure that the abolition of roaming fees is sustainable throughout the Member States.
The agreement also proposes a “fair use” safeguard. This is with a view to preventing permanent roaming, i.e. situations where a consumer buys a SIM card in another Member State in order to avail of favourable domestic tariffs in their country of residence, or a consumer continuing to use a domestic subscription while based abroad. Under the fair use safeguard, a usage limit will be put in place and once this is reached, operators may then charge a small basic fee. The Commission stressed that this fee will be much lower than current caps and will likely be further decreased over time.
Roaming charges will be reduced one further time before the abolition comes into effect. As of April 2016, operators will not be permitted to add more than 5 cent to tariffs for calls made while abroad, 2 cent to tariffs for texts, and 5 cent per MB to data tariffs. These caps are about 25% of the current roaming caps for calls and data, and approximately 33% of existing caps for texts.
More information on roaming charges can be found in the Popular Consumer Topics section of our website.
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