By Roland Moore-Colyer
The European Commission has agreed on an approach that ends roaming charges in the EU and does not impose a limit on its use.
“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,” said Günther H. Oettinger, commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society.
Under the revised draft rules, travelers across EU member states using a SIM card from one of those nations will be able to use their phone at the same rates they would be charged at in their home nation.
Under the Commission’s ‘Roam like at Home’ mechanism, criteria will be in place to ensure EU citizens do not abuse it by going to one country to get the cheapest tariff then using that SIM predominately in their country of residence.
The draft allows for operators to check on a customer’s domestic data use versus their roaming traffic, inactivity of a SIM card associated mostly if not exclusively with roaming, and the subscription and sequential use of multiple SIM cards by the customer while roaming.
If the operators identify any of the criteria they will be able to apply small surcharges providing they alert their customers. Any disputes in such action will need to be handled by a national regulator.
Furthermore, the draft rules protect against people buying a mass of SIM cards from one country and selling them on in another, allowing for the Roam like at Home mechanism to be exploited.
If price increases or marker effects result in a negative situation for an operators domestic customers, they are able to get out of the Roam like At Home provision and temporarily apply small surcharges if authorized by national regulators.
The new draft rules appear to be a little more balanced for operators where previous draft plans looked to make life quite difficult four telecoms companies.
Under the previous draft, mobile operators could be forced by the European Commission to offer their customers 90 days of free roaming each year.
However, the new draft plans no completely scrap that limit in favor of the more comprehensive checks and criteria to prevent mobile roaming abuse.
Following lengthy negotiations with mobile telecoms firms, in 2015 the Commission decided that roaming fees across EU member nations would be abolished from June 2017.
To outline how the removal of roaming charges will be implemented the Commission made its initial draft regulation public, which details a fair use policy whereby people wanting to use their mobile service outside of its native country.
Effectively, the Commission is putting a fair use cap on the removal of roaming charges so mobile operators are not left too out of pocket by the changes. And it prevents savvy people from exploiting the regulation by getting their mobile contract in the cheapest EU nation and then using it permanently in a member state with more expensive tariffs.
All this is good news for people who regularly enjoy the EU’s freedom of movement, but get stung by the high cost of using their mobile outside their home nation.
However, Britain’s vote to leave the EU, providing it does come into effect, will mean UK operators will not have to abide by the Commission’s ruling.
As such, people with contracts from mobile carriers serving Britain will likely be subject to roaming charges and find a quick trip over the channel to France more expensive than they were expecting if they plan to use their mobile.
This raises yet another concern over the impact the Brexit will have on the UK’s technology industry for both businesses and consumers. Concerns over the Brexit are so pertinent that Japan wrote an open letter to the British government with a list of requests that it wants addressed if the UK is to retain Japanese businesses.