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EU Publishes Revised Fair Use Policy for FREE Mobile Roaming

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016 (12:29 pm) - Score 1,185

The European Commission has today proposed a revised Fair Use Policy (FUP) for their plan to end EU mobile roaming charges from 15th June 2017 (i.e. any call, text or data allowances will come from your domestic plan), which replaces the one that was withdrawn almost as soon as it was announced.

The original plan was to abolish all of the roaming related surcharges from next year as planned, save for a Fair Use Policy exception to prevent abuse. Under the Fair Use rule, roaming charges would only be completely abolished for “at least 90 days per year” (operators could be more flexible if they wanted) or no more than 30 days of roaming use in a row.

However the caveat apparently caused a few unhappy reactions and so the Commission’s President, Jean-Claude Juncker, took the surprise decision to withdraw the policy and that came only a few short days after it had been announced (here).

One week on from that mess and the EC has embarrassingly had to propose an alternative FUP for the end of roaming charges, which will be based on the “principle of residence or stable links [that] European consumers may have with any EU Member State.” Suffice to say it’s a bit more difficult to understand than the original idea.

Examples of “stable links” include work commuters, expats who are frequently present in their home country or Erasmus students. Europeans will pay domestic prices when they call, text or go online from their mobile devices and will have full access to other parts of their mobile subscription (e.g. monthly data package).

Strong safeguards for operators

1) Safeguards against abuses based on residence or permanent links to an EU country

Roaming is for travellers. The new draft allows operators to check usage patterns to avoid the “Roam like at Home” mechanism being abused. A non-exhaustive list of criteria includes:

– insignificant domestic traffic compared to roaming traffic;

– long inactivity of a given SIM card associated with use mostly, if not exclusively, while roaming;

– subscription and sequential use of multiple SIM cards by the same customer while roaming.

In such cases, operators will have to alert their users. Only if these conditions are met, operators will be able to apply small surcharges (the Commission proposed a maximum of €0.04/min per call, €0.01/SMS and €0.0085/MB). In case of disagreement, complaints procedures must be put in place by the operator. If the dispute persists the customer may complain to the national regulatory authority which will settle the case.

Abuses could also be related to the mass purchase and resale of SIM cards for permanent use outside the country of the operator issuing them. In such cases, the operator will be allowed to take immediate and proportionate measures while informing the national regulator.

2) Safeguards in case of exceptional circumstances in the domestics markets

In case of price increases on a specific market or other negative effects for their domestic customers, operators can get out of the “Roam like at Home” provision allowing them, if authorised by national regulators, to temporarily apply the same small surcharges (the Commission proposed a maximum of €0.04/min per call, €0.01/SMS and €0.0085/MB). Operators will have to provide evidence to demonstrate that “Roam like at Home” was putting their domestic charging model at risk.

At this stage terms like “insignificant” or “long inactivity” are somewhat open to interpretation, although hopefully the Mobile Network Operators will be able to produce T&Cs that are a little more self-explanatory.

Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy, said:

“Commission action on roaming prices has delivered for European consumers. Today’s draft rulesensure we can end roaming charges as of 15 June 2017 for all people who travel periodically in the EU, while ensuring that operators have the tools to guard against abuse of the rules.”

The Commission now has to put their proposal to the Body of European Regulators in Electronic Communications (this includes Ofcom UK), EU member states and other interested parties before adopting the final proposal by 15th December 2016.

Leave a Comment
3 Responses
  1. adslmax Real says:

    Bloody EU controlled once again!

  2. Whitesnake says:

    Yes those pesky Europeans, how dare they abolish roaming charges in the EU!!!!

    1. wirelesspacman says:

      They must have misunderstood us when we said we wanted to limit “roaming” 🙂

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