Unexpected EU withdrawal of free mobile roaming’s Fair Use policy

The highly anticipated abandoning of mobile roaming charges across the EU has come under question after the EU made a shock reversal of its Fair Use policy.

Due to be instated on 15th June 2017, the EU is set to become call/text/data roaming charge free, including the UK until our EU exit. However, a key part of this was the Fair Use plan, which allows travellers to incur zero mobile roaming charges for a period of 90 days annually, or 30 days consecutively, as the European Commission stated: “without a few safeguards to avoid abuses… network quality and investments in new capacity in some countries may suffer as people could opt for different territorial operators, and the domestic mobileprices might go up as operators would try to compensate losses”.

This statement was retracted just days later, however, when on 9th September the EC reported that “in light of the initial feed-back received, President Juncker has instructed the services to withdraw that text and to work on a new proposal”. While there is currently no word of what this ‘new proposal’ is set to be, there are fears as to whether it will be better or worse, considering the lengthy amount of time it has taken to get to the Fair Use policy, only for it to be withdrawn almost immediately.

Although roaming costs within the EU have come down considerably, such as from €0.19 (+VAT) for a one minute voice call to €0.05 (+VAT) after 30th April, there is still doubt as to what cost the final charges will be determined as. Some already had issue with the Fair Use policy, particularly operators, as it limited what they could charge customers. However, with these tough new guidelines removed before implementation, uncertainty is more present than ever before.

Financial Times reported one industry figure stating of the Fair Use policy that “roaming rules are revenue-depressive… today’s decision increases expectations of the sector for pro-investment telecoms reform”. Even with the reversal, reform in both telecoms and in the EU’s roaming charges remains undecided.

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