Mobile phone roaming: MEPs back extension of free roaming in the EU

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.


Parliament’s Industry Committee voted in favour of extending the “Roam like at Home” scheme for another ten years.

The updated legislation, a follow-up to the 2017 elimination of roaming fees, also makes adjustments aiming for better roaming services for travellers.

According to the text adopted by MEPs, consumers would continue to enjoy the ability to use their mobile phones when travelling abroad in the EU with no additional fees on top of what they already pay at home.

In addition, they would be entitled to the same quality and speed of mobile connection abroad as at home. Roaming providers would be obliged to offer roaming conditions equal to those offered domestically, if the same technologies and conditions are available on the network in the country people are visiting. MEPs want to prohibit commercial practices reducing the quality of services of regulated retail roaming services (e.g. by switching the connection from 4G to 3G).

Free access to emergency services

Access to emergency services would be provided to travellers without any additional charge – whether by call or SMS, including the transmission of caller location information. Operators would also have to provide information to roaming users about the European emergency number 112, MEPs agreed. MEPs also want people with disabilities to be able to access to emergency services without additional charges.

Ending surcharges for intra-EU calls

MEPs also propose ending surcharges for intra-EU calls (e.g. when calling from Belgium to Italy), which are currently capped at 19 cents per minute. Users would pay only the extra costs objectively justified by the provider.

Quote

Lead MEP Angelika Winzig (EPP, AT) said: “Roam-like-at-home is an unprecedented European success story. It shows how we all directly benefit from the EU single market. We want to cut costs further and improve the quality of service for all European citizens. This is an opportunity for us to add some notable improvements, which will benefit citizens and businesses without causing disruption for mobile network operators. With this regulation we take another important step towards a true European digital single market, for a successful, strong and effective European Union of the future”.

Next steps

The new rules will need to be agreed by Parliament and Council, before they can enter into force. The report was adopted with 67 votes to 0, with 7 abstentions. MEPs voted to open negotiations with Council with 67 votes to 0 and 7 abstentions. The mandate will be announced during the 18-21 October plenary session. Council agreed its negotiating mandate on 16 June 2021. The first trilogue would then take place on the 26th of October.

Background

The Roaming Regulation established the ‘Roam-Like-At-Home‘ (RLAH) rule that mandated the end of retail roaming charges as of 15 June 2017 in the EU. The regulation forms part of the EU digital single market achievements and is currently in force until 30 June 2022.

Five years after the adoption of the regulation in 2015, the Commission reviewed the scheme to assess its effects and the need for an extension. In its impact assessment, the Commission pointed out that market conditions do not yet appear to guarantee that free roaming can continue without regulatory intervention, and proposed to extend the rules beyond their current expiry date of 30 June 2022.

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