European Parliament votes to abolish roaming charges across the EU
Dublin, 3rd April 2014 – The European Parliament voted this morning to abolish roaming charges across the EU from December 2015.
The move follows the Commission’s proposal for a Telecoms Regulation which would be the first step in creating a single market for telecoms within the EU. As part of the EU’s “Connected Continent” drive, this Regulation, proposed in September 2013, aims to end roaming charges and guarantee an open internet for all. It is also intended to increase transparency in internet and broadband contracts and make it easier for consumers to switch providers.
As it stands, the “Eurotariff” cap on roaming charges ensures that EU travellers do not pay over a certain amount for using their phones while they are abroad. Charges for making a call within the EU are capped at 24c as of July 2013, while receiving a call should cost no more than 7c per minute and sending a text message no more than 8c. These charges will be reduced further in July of this year, with the maximum permissible charge for making a call falling to 19c, for receiving a call to 5c, and text messages capped at 6c. However, once the new legislation is in place, it is intended that these charges will be abolished entirely.
Speaking after the vote, Commission Vice-President Neelie Kroes said, “This is what the EU is all about – getting rid of barriers to make life easier and less expensive. Nearly all of us depend on mobile and internet connections as part of our daily lives. We should know what we are buying; we should not be ripped-off.”
This morning’s vote represents a commitment by the parliament to the new legislation. Once the new parliament is elected in May, it will be further discussed with national telecoms ministers. The Commission has indicated that it expects a final agreement on the new legislation by December 2014, with the measures coming into force from December 2015 onward.
UPDATE April 2015: On April 3rd 2014, the European Parliament voted to abolish roaming charges across the EU as of December 2015. However, the legislation was delayed as national governments could not come to an agreement on the exact terms of the text. On March 4th 2015, the European Council announced that it was sending the proposed legislation back to the European Parliament for further discussion. This means that it is highly unlikely roaming charges will be abolished by the originally agreed date of December 2015.
The Commission will instead be asked to assess the situation by mid-2018, with a view to phasing out roaming charges. In the interim, the Council has proposed an alternative system whereby consumers would be able to make a certain number of calls and texts and use a certain amount of data while roaming without being charged more than the normal tariff they would pay at home. Once these limits are used up, the consumer would then be charged an additional amount – however, the Council specifies that this additional fee would not be higher than the maximum wholesale rate paid by operators for the use of networks in other Member States.
Exact details of this proposed system, including how many calls/texts and data consumers would be able to use without paying a roaming fee, have yet to be confirmed. In the meantime, the roaming rates which came into effect in July 2014 remain in force across the EU.
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