Roaming Charges to be Abolished Across Europe from Summer 2017

Published: 30 October 2015

The European Parliament in a vote on Tuesday passed a legislative package to abolish roaming charges across the EU in less than two years. Commencing 15 June 2017 outgoing calls can be initiated, incoming calls received, sending texts or surfing the Web will be available at no extra cost.

Adopted Tuesday, the legislation on the single market for electronic communications brings significant changes to roaming regulations. Under the new rules the ban will be preceded by an interim period, from 30 April 2016 and 14 June 2017, in which mobile network providers can still add surcharges albeit at a reduced rate.

Specifically, telecoms operators will be able to add a surcharge of no more than €0.05 extra per megabyte of data used, no more than €0.05 extra per minute for outgoing calls, no more than approximately €0.0114 per minute for incoming calls, and no more than €0.02 per SMS sent within the European Union.

And commencing 15 June 2017, roaming fee surcharges can only be added on in exceptional cases. Telecoms operators will only be able to apply surcharges provided they can demonstrate vis-á-vis the NMHH, using economic calculations, that they cannot offset costs associated with the scrapping of roaming feels and would therefore be compelled to raise domestic tariffs. Otherwise, telecoms providers can only charge domestic rates.

However, roaming providers will be able to apply a “fair use safeguard” to prevent abusive use of roaming by end users. This would include using roaming services for purposes other than periodic travel. As a safeguard, roaming providers will have the right to add on extra charges in line with prior roaming regulations if the end user exceeds a specific “fair use limit”. Detailed regulation governing fair use terms and conditions will be set by member states’ regulatory authorities, in collaboration with EU institutions, by 15 December 2016. In the process they will make consideration for factors like travel habits, domestic prices, pricing patterns, perceptible risks of distortion of competition.

The Website of the Office of the Media and Infocommunications Commissioner provides key information on international mobile telephony use, as does a short NMHH video on the subject. The NMHH website also offers a Compare Roaming Tariffs feature - broken down by target country, telecoms provider, and rate package - to provide guidance to the public on the costs of using mobile services abroad.

Net neutrality

Under the first EU-wide open internet rules, operators may not slow down or restrict content, services, and applications, they will have to treat all traffic equally when providing internet access services. They can only restrict traffic under exceptional circumstances, proportionately, and only for the requisite duration, and nor may they engage in preferential treatment of certain contents. As a new feature, ISPs will be able to agree deals to deliver services of enhanced speed and quality with content providers in some cases, although provided this has no detrimental impact on “the open internet”.