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EU Clarifies Draft Fair Use Safeguards for FREE Mobile Roaming

Thursday, December 8th, 2016 (2:06 pm) - Score 762

The European Commission has today clarified the safeguards (fair use policy“) that will exist alongside their plan to end EU mobile roaming charges from 15th June 2017 (i.e. any call, text or data allowance used will come from your domestic plan).

The policy means that consumers should be able to use their mobile devices without any time limit while travelling away from home (aka – ‘Roam like at Home‘), albeit subject to proportionate checks for abuse (details here). In other words, you’ll pay the same price for mobile services in the EU as you would in your “home” country (i.e. the place where you live or have “stable links“).

Examples of “stable links” include work commuters, expats who are frequently present in their home country or Erasmus students. Today the EC has moved to complete this policy by proposing a draft set of changes that aim to clarify how some of the safeguards will work in order to prevent abuse.

The Latest EC Draft Rules:

* Provide further detail on the concept of a “stable link” with a country, to ensure that people such as frontier workers, posted workers, students and retired people who have stable links with a country, without officially residing in that country, can benefit from offers in the country where they work, study or spend substantial time.

* Ensure that consumers are not subject to over-intrusive checking or burdensome requests for documentation. This is done by foreseeing a minimum “observation period” before operators can identify a risk of abusive roaming use – on the basis of presence and consumption at home and abroad. Based on the advice of consumer organisations, this period should not be less than four months.

* Establish an additional minimum alert period of 14 days before surcharges can be imposed on consumers.

* Safeguard the access of all consumers, travellers and non-travellers, to the best, most competitive domestic deals. This is done by allowing an exceptional brake on intensive roaming data consumption, linked to the wholesale price level. Such intensive use could otherwise make low-price packages economically unattractive, and provoke price hikes, domestic volume restrictions or restrictions on roaming.

The draft legislation (an implementing act) has now been sent to the Representatives of Member States, who will meet on Monday 12th December 2016 to vote on the text and after that it will just need a final rubber stamp from the EC, European Parliament and Council of Ministers in charge of Telecoms (the latter still need to finalise their negotiations on regulation of the related wholesale roaming market).

Andrus Ansip, VP of the Digital Single Market, said:

“We are providing a balanced solution which is in the interest of everyone who uses mobile phones and devices. Every European will be able to roam without extra charges, when travelling from the place they call “home”. Every European should also be able to benefit from the most competitive domestic offers.

In close cooperation with European consumers, we have designed safeguards to ensure travellers benefit from “roam like at home”, while avoiding negative effects on the most competitive domestic data packages. We have listened, we have consulted, we have refined our proposals; I believe we provide legal certainty. It is now up to EU Member States to support what we are proposing in order to make Europeans’ lives easier, cut bills and keep prices down.”

Naturally there’s is a question mark over what will happen in the United Kingdom once the Brexit process reaches its conclusion around 2019, although we have seen some hints from Ofcom and elsewhere that a lot of telecoms policy will be maintained (i.e. adopted into UK law, at least temporarily). Free roaming is likely to be one of those shared policy areas, but this is not yet confirmed.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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