The EU Commission has reached an informal agreement with the European Parliament to extend free roaming for mobile phone users for another ten years.
The system, where mobile users pay no more for calls made in another EU member state than they would at home, is scheduled to expire in June 2022.
Roaming charges were abolished in 2017, as they were considered a bar to free movement in the EU. Since mobile phone messages are already bouncing into space and back, opponents of roaming charges argued there was no justification for a surcharge for a call from, say, Liege to Maastricht.
This week MEPs and the Slovenian presidency of the Council reached an informal agreement to continue the Roam Like at Home scheme currently in force, where a call made in one of the other participating countries costs no more than would a call made in your local area.
“In addition, they would be entitled to the same quality and speed of mobile connection abroad as at home,” the parliament said in a statement.
“Roaming providers will be obliged to offer the same roaming quality as that offered domestically, if the same conditions are available on the network in the visiting country. To this aim, MEPs secured a provision to prohibit practices that reduce the quality of roaming services (e.g. by switching the connection from 4G to 3G).”
The informal agreement, which has to be approved by the Council and the full Parliament before it can come into force.
During discussions with the presidency, MEPs pushed to end intra-EU surcharges as well as roaming costs. The difference being that roaming involves calls within another member state, while the surcharges involve calls from one member state to another. With no position being reached, the question will now be put to the Commission for examination.
“We were able to reach an agreement that is progressive and leads to even better quality and service for European citizens,” said Austrian MEP Angelika Winzig, leading the negotiations on the Parliament side.
“We are creating a fairer roaming market, especially focusing on smaller operators by significantly cutting the wholesale caps. As European Parliament chief negotiator, it was my goal to improve the situation significantly for consumers,” she said.
The agreement, she added, “is one step closer to a true Digital Single Market and I am happy that we could add a new chapter to this European success story”.