The European Commission is keeping its promise. At his state of the union address (14 September), European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker took to task a “well-meaning official” who had designed a proposal over the summer for abolishing mobile roaming charges.
Roaming charges are the surcharges that telecoms operators impose on their customers each time they cross a border while using their mobile device on holiday or during business trips. Since 2007, roaming prices have decreased by more than 90%.
The proposal that was suddenly withdrawn was limited in time to 30 days abroad and altogether three months per year. According to Juncker “being political also means correcting technocratic mistakes immediately when they happen”.
A week after the state of the union address (21 September), 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 is supposed to provide a solid safeguard mechanism for operators against potential abuses.
The new mechanism will be based on principle of residence or stable links European consumers may have with any EU Member State such as frequent and substantial presence in the Member State of the roaming provider.
“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,” said Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market.
As of 15 June 2017, the new rules 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.
According to the draft rules there will be strong safeguards for operators. The rules will allow 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.
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. Operators will have to provide evidence to demonstrate that “Roam like at Home” was putting their domestic charging model at risk.
The Brussels Times (Source: The European Commission)