EU to throw out mobile roaming charges for citizens

28 October 2015
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The EU has thrown out roaming charges on mobile phone usage within the union, the parliament’s voting showed on Tuesday.

The new laws are expected to come into effect as of June 2017 following the parliament’s final approval of the telecoms package, an announcement has said.

“This abolition of roaming surcharges has been long awaited by everybody: ordinary people, start-ups, SMEs and all kinds of organisations” said the rapporteur, Pilar del Castillo (EPP, ES), in the debate before the vote. “Thanks to this agreement, Europe will also become the only region in world which legally guarantees open internet and net neutrality. The principle of net neutrality will be applied directly in the 28 member states. It also ensures that we will not have a two-speed internet.”

By not accepting any amendments to the Council’s position in first reading, MEPs adopted the new law.

“Roaming fees for calling, sending text messages and using the mobile internet abroad in the EU (and in EEA countries) will be banned from 15 June 2017,” the announcement said.

From 30 April 2016 roaming surcharges (added to the price paid at home) must not exceed:

– €0.05 per minute for outgoing voice calls
– €0.02 for text messages (SMS), or
– €0.05 per megabyte of mobile internet use.

The cap on charges for incoming voice calls will be determined later this year and is expected to be considerably lower than for outgoing calls, the parliament had decided.

Recovering costs and preventing abuse

National authorities, the announcement said, will be allowed to recover costs if they can prove that they cannot be reimbursed and it affects their domestic prices, the parliament said. “[They] may authorise them to impose minimal surcharges in exceptional circumstances to recover these costs,” the announcement said.

MEPs won guarantees that national regulatory authorities will have the means to amend or reject the surcharges, they said.

“To protect the industry against abuses such as ‘permanent roaming’, operators could in certain circumstances be allowed to charge a small fee, lower than current caps, according to a ‘fair use’ policy. The exact details for this will be defined by the Commission and telecoms regulators,” the parliament had announced.

Open access to internet

Firms, under the new law, will be obliged to offer internet access to all traffic equally, the EU announced. As such the parliament said that providers will, “not to block or slow delivery of content, applications or services from selected senders or to selected receivers, unless this is necessary to obey court orders, comply with laws, prevent network congestion or combat cyber-attacks.”

If such traffic management measures are needed, they will have to be ‘transparent, non-discriminatory and proportionate’ and may not last for longer than necessary, the EU had said.

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