EU member states have voted to approve the European Commission’s proposal for fair-use limits on mobile roaming charges. The Commission issued a short statement, in which it said the rules had been approved ahead of the 15 December deadline. Mobile operators will now have until June 2017 to implement the changes, when roaming charges are set to be abolished.
"EU Member States voted: we can adopt proposed safeguards to make end of roaming work," Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip said on Twitter.
This puts an end to the decade-long campaign to abolish roaming charges, which has been plagued with delays and complications. The European Union has struggled to find a compromise that suits both operators and consumers. Mobile operators blame the large discrepancies in charges they pay each pay each other to keep their respective customers connected when abroad. They believe these charges make free-roaming uneconomical.
In an effort to alleviate these concerns, the Commission withdrew its earlier proposal to let users roam free for up to 90 days a year. Its latest proposal seeks to address the issue of discrepancies in domestic prices. The EU has had to define "fair use" rules to ensure consumers did not take advantage of the new rules by buying cheap SIM cards in one EU country and using them permanently elsewhere.
So what exactly does this latest proposal mean for the consumer?
Consumers with unlimited data plans will face limits on how much they can browse the Internet while travelling within the European Union. It also allows operators to request permission to apply roaming surcharges after June if they stand to lose at least 3 percent of mobile revenues when providing "roam like at home".
The member states have also voted to let mobile providers keep charging each other, despite EU roaming becoming free for consumers from June 2017. However, the EU still needs to agree on caps for these charges, and member states remain divided on what they should be.
For example, per Reuters, countries with high rates of tourism favor higher caps to compensate their operators for handling extra tourist traffic, while countries in eastern Europe are campaigning for them to fall to avoid operators having to raise prices in their home markets.
There is plenty of work still to be done before June 2017, and we’ll be keeping a close eye on developments as they happen, so don’t forget to check back for the latest news and discussion.
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