EU figures out global roaming charges

All roads lead to RomeThe death of mobile roaming charges came closer in the EU after member states at the Permanent Representatives Committee yesterday approved the deal with the European Parliament.

Under the agreement, roaming surcharges in the European Union will be abolished on 15 June 2017. But, roaming providers can apply a ‘fair use policy’ to prevent abusive use of roaming. This will include using roaming services for purposes other than periodic travel.

For roaming that goes beyond fair use, a small fee may be charged. This fee cannot be higher than the maximum wholesale rate that operators pay for using the networks of other EU countries. The limit for fair use will be defined by the Commission by 15 December 2016.

This change in the law will mean that current wholesale rates need to be brought down. To do this, the Commission will have to review the wholesale roaming market and propose a new law by 15 June 2016. Safeguards will be introduced to address the recovery of costs by operators.

Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg’s Prime Minister and Minister for Communications and the Media and President of the Council, which still includes Greece, said: “The agreement on abolishing roaming by June 2017 shows that the European Union can bring concrete benefits to European citizens. Europe can deliver.” Including to Greeks.

Roaming fees will start to come down on 30 April 2016. The maximum surcharge will then be €0.05 per minute for calls, €0.02 for texts and €0.05 per megabyte for data. These amounts correspond to the current maximum wholesale rates. For calls received, the maximum surcharge will be the weighted average of maximum mobile termination rates across the EU, to be set out by the Commission by the end of 2015. That applies to Greece, too.

After 30 April 2016, the sum of the domestic price and any surcharge cannot in any case be higher than the current retail caps (€0.19 per minute for calls, €0.06 for texts and €0.20 per megabyte of data). Greece will benefit too.

The agreed text still has to undergo a technical finalisation and be formally approved by the Council and the Parliament. The Council is expected to formally adopt it in the autumn of this year.

Vice-President Andrus Ansip said that the announcement was the culmination of a decade of hard work by previous Commission Vice-Presidents Viviane Reding and Neelie Kroes to bring down roaming charges in the EU.

“ Since we took action in 2007, prices for roaming calls, SMS and data have fallen by more than 80 percent. Today, data roaming is now up to 91 per centcheaper than it was then,” he said. And “God bless Greece!”  He didn’t say that.