EU backtracks on 90-day roaming cap

James Pearce
Published on:

Commission announces alternative safeguards for roaming rules after ditching 90-day limit

The European Commission has opted against imposing a 90-day limit on new roaming regulations, instead leaving it up to operators to intervene if they find customers are roaming for free excessively.

In its latest proposals, Brussels scrapped plans to restrict free roaming across the European Union to just 90 days from June 2017. The proposal, which was announced earlier this month, had met fierce criticism from consumer groups.

The new rules will mean consumers and business users from Europe can use their mobile for the same price they pay at home, but operators can introduce surcharges for roaming only if they detect excessive use.

These safeguards will be subject to several criteria, including; insignificant domestic traffic compared to roaming traffic; and long inactivity of a given SIM card associated with use mostly, if not exclusively, while roaming. If an operator finds that a user is in breach, they will have to alert them before they can apply a small surcharge (proposed by the Commission as a maximum of €0.04/min per call, €0.01/SMS and €0.0085/MB).

In the case of a disagreement, the operator must put complaint procedures in place, and this can be escalated to the national regulator when these are exhausted.

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President for the Digital Single Market, said: “Parliament and Council agreed on our proposal to end roaming charges for travellers in the EU. Together we need to ensure low prices for users all across Europe, to make full use of new mobile services. European consumers would not accept it otherwise.”

The announcement marks a week of u-turns for the Commission. It first announced the inclusion of a 90-day safeguard following pressure from the mobile industry, who were concerned that customers would buy SIM-cards in EU countries where mobile bills are much lower, such as Bulgaria, and use them in more expensive countries. This could potentially have harmed profits.

But consumer groups reacted angrily, saying the EU had failed customers to protect operators. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker last week ordered the Commission to redraft the proposals in order to make it more consumer-friendly, leading to the latest draft.

The Commission said it would adopt its new proposal by D15 December following feedback from member states and national regulators, through BEREC.