EU Roaming Fees Phase Out News – September 2016 – Part 1

A couple of days ago the EU has published a first draft of how to go forward with removing roaming charges in the EU starting in mid-2017. A number of press reports quickly followed which were mostly negative and which all failed to analyze the issues the proposed compromise wants to address and resolve in an acceptable way for both consumers and network operators. So I thought I’ll fill that gap over here. In this post, I’ve put together an overview of what the draft regulation proposes in some detail. In a follow up post I’ll give you my opinion what the reasons are the different limitations are proposed, which ones I find acceptable, which ones I don’t find acceptable from a consumer point of view and what I think is missing. So here we go, this is how I interpret the draft:

By mid-2017 the EU will require network operators to apply the same tariffs they charge in their home countries when their customers travel abroad in the EU, i.e. no more roaming charges. However, and now comes quite a list of ‘howevers’, the EU is aware that there are different price structures and business models in the EU that makes prices cheaper in some countries than in others. To prevent this imbalance from having a significant impact on network operators business models, network operators are allowed to apply the following limits if they think it is required. The draft proposal uses a double negative which is difficult to read so I’ll turn it around again for easier readability:

  • Operators are allowed (but not required) to limit the number of days for which no roaming surcharges are applied to 90 days per year. More days or no limit at all are allowed but not less.
  • Operators are allowed (but are not required to) to apply roaming charges if a customer does not come back home once every 30 days.
  • Days during which a subscriber registers in the home network and in a network in another EU country are not counted against the limited number of days per year in the first bullet point. In other words, people living close to the border or work in one country and live in another and commute daily will not be limited to the 90 days to use their subscription throughout the year in other EU countries.
  • For prepaid SIM cards, operators are allowed (but not required to) to mandate that a SIM card has to be used in the home country first up to the average monthly usage of that tariff before it applies for roaming without surcharges.

In case one of the bullet points above is not fulfilled a home network operator is allowed to add roaming surcharges up to the regulated price level, e.g. 0.85 cents are proposed per MB.

Also, there are some usage scenarios described in the proposal which are seen as abusive such as for example sequential use of several SIM cards to circumvent the limits above, SIM card cloning, and sparse use at home in combination with high use while roaming. If a network operator thinks somebody is ‘abusing’ the roaming regulation the draft proposal says that the evidence has to be collected over at least 45 days and that the customer has to be notified and given two weeks to change his behavior. Only then can the operator put roaming surcharges on voice, SMS and data traffic while a customer is still within the bounds of the limits described in the bullet points above.

Those are the things that I read out of the proposal. A significant part of the proposal then goes on and lays out in detail what evidence network operators have to provide to the national regulator if they think their business model is threatened despite the limitations they can apply as described above. That part is quite difficult to read if you are not a lawyer and not fluent in ‘roaming speak’ and I won’t go into the details here because that is a different topic altogether anyway. Suffice it to say that it’s pretty evident which paragraphs were proposed by consumer friendly parties and which were proposed by network operators.

So this is my summary of what can be found in the proposal. In a follow up post I’ll have a look at the different restrictions proposed and give you my opinion of why I think they’ve been put into the proposal and what I personally think about them. Coming up soon, so stay tuned.

One thought on “EU Roaming Fees Phase Out News – September 2016 – Part 1”

  1. Thanks for the quick overview.

    I’m really wondering about how the proposals about the additional abusive scenario looks like in practice later. If i only use my Phone very seldomly at home, but use it a lot while roaming it might be that i simply talk to my family face-to-face when at home, but i’m dependend on mobile communication when i’m on frequent business trips…

    Very hard to proof an abusive scenario in this case, if “abusive” is not clearly defined by countable numbers.

    One might think it would simply be easiest to give a decent but still acceptable rate limit.

    I.e. if i have a full-flatrate without limit at home, i am only allowed to do amount X of data and voice call abroad when roaming.
    But how big should amount X be to be fair. 10GB data per month and 1000 voice minutes?

    Difficult questions… difficult to regulate from EU perspective onto all the local markets…

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