The end of roaming charges within European Union countries is set to start on June 15, 2017. This was supposed to come into effect already couple of years back but telecommunications operators were able to slow down the process.
Mobile phone users can use their plan anywhere within the European Union and only need to pay extra for the data, mobile calls or texts that exceeds their plan. Even those excess usage prices have now been capped by the EU.
Here’s the EU press release:
End of roaming charges: EU negotiators agreed on wholesale prices, the final piece to make it happen
Brussels, 1 February 2017
As the last step towards the end of roaming charges by 15 June 2017, representatives of the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission agreed on how to regulate wholesale roaming markets (the prices operators charge each other when their customers use other networks when roaming in the EU).
EU negotiators agreed on the following wholesale caps:
- 3.2 cents per minute of voice call, as of 15 June 2017
- 1 cent per SMS, as of 15 June 2017
- A step by step reduction over 5 years for data caps decreasing from €7.7 per GB (as of 15 June 2017) to €6 per GB (as of 1 January 2018), €4.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2019), €3.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2020), €3 per GB (as of 1 January 2021) and €2.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2022).
Here’s some important part of the regulation that LoyaltyLobby readers should know:
3. The end of roaming charges for all Europeans travelling in the EU
How will the end of roaming charges work?
Mobile operators have to offer their roaming services at domestic prices to consumers who either normally reside in or have stable links to the Member State of the operator, while those customers are periodically travelling in the EU. If necessary, operators can ask their customers to provide proof of residence or of such stable links to the Member State in question. Roaming providers may apply fair, reasonable and proportionate control mechanisms based on objective indicators to detect the risks of abusive or anomalous use of “Roam like at Home” beyond periodic travelling.
Who will be covered?
The draft rules will enable all European travellers using a SIM card of a Member State in which they reside or with which they have “stable links” to use their mobile device in any other EU country, just as they would at home.
Examples of “stable links” include cross-border commuters and posted workers, Erasmus+ programme beneficiaries such as students, apprentices or volunteers.
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).
Do I need to register to “Roam like at Home”?
No formal registration is required to benefit from the “Roam like at Home” mechanism. From 15 June 2017, it should be included by default in all customers’ mobile contracts on which operators offer roaming. Operators may ask consumers to provide proof that their home (residence) is in the Member State of the mobile operator (in case they do not already dispose of such information for billing purposes).
The consumer may also prove stable links entailing frequent and substantial presence on the territory of the Member State of the mobile operator, like an employment relationship or following recurring courses at University.
How will personal data be protected?
The new draft measures explicitly require the roaming providers to comply with the relevant data protection rules. The Commission has consulted the European Data Protection Supervisor and has taken his comments into account. Operators can only use the information they already gather for billing purposes to check to what extent customers are using mobile and data services abroad compared to their consumption at home.
Will Europeans still be able to buy different SIM cards in different Member States?
Yes. EU citizens can continue to buy any other SIM card in any EU Member State and surf and call at local tariffs or roam with that card. However they might not be able to benefit from “Roam like at Home” if they are not resident in the country where they bought the card or if they do not have stable links with this country.
What will be the role of the national regulatory authorities?
As under existing roaming rules, national regulatory authorities will monitor and check if mobile operators comply with the new rules.
Are there any regulatory safeguards?
The safeguards against abuse are based on clear principles and include indicators and tools which are reasonable, non-discriminatory, transparent, and respect privacy. In order to detect potential abuses, the roaming provider may perform checks of the usage patterns of customers both in their own Member State and in other Member States (control mechanism). This will be based on the information which operators already use to bill their customers.
Identifying abusive or anomalous traffic patterns should be based on the following clear and transparent indicators:
- A pair of indicators to be observed over a period of at least four months, establishing whether the customer has a) prevailing domestic consumption over roaming consumption and b) prevailing domestic presence (log-on to the roaming provider’s network) over presence in other Member States of the EU;
- 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;
Fair use policies have to be notified by the roaming provider to the national regulatory authority and be spelled out in detail in contracts.
- Fighting commercial abuses. Abuses could 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 (e.g. suspension of service on the basis of breach of contractual conditions). The operator has to simultaneously notify the national regulatory authority about the evidence of the systematic abuse and the measures taken. This enables the national regulatory authority to monitor the application of that measure in accordance with the established requirements and to react if necessary.
- Individual abuse by customers. Roam like at home is designed for travellers. Operators can check usage patterns to avoid abuse based on the above-mentioned indicators. In order to determine that the user might be abusively or anomalously using “Roam Like at Home”, the operator would have to show that over a period of time of at least four months. If a customer spends more than two months abroad out of four months, and if the customer has consumed more abroad than at home over this time, operators will send an alert to that customer. Once the alert is received, the customer will have two weeks to clarify the situation. If the user continues to remain abroad, operators will be able to apply small surcharges (equivalent to wholesale roaming caps, 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 who will settle the case.
The rules will protect consumers from adverse effects of an increase in domestic prices:
- For pre- paid metered contracts: when a customer goes abroad, she/he can “Roam like at Home” up the amount of credit remaining on the pre-paid card. For data, the customer can use at least the volume that can be purchased by the remaining credit on the pre-paid card at the wholesale roaming data price cap.
- For the most competitive contracts that offer unlimited data or data at very low domestic prices, below the wholesale cap: when a customer goes abroad she/he will continue to enjoy the full allowance of calls and texts. For data, the customer will have at least twice the volume of data that can be purchased by the value of the customer’s monthly contract at the wholesale roaming data price cap.
This means that someone cannot buy a SIM card in one country and only use it to roam in others. You need to observe the limits that are set above. Even if your operator deems that you are in violation of the fair use, the EU has set the limits that the operator can charge for this kind of usage that are rather reasonable.
This has been long coming, and the European telco operators were able to slow down the process by few years (and reeking in roaming charges).
When I first heard about this yesterday, it came to mind how this would be implemented in case of prepaid SIMs and those that may buy a cheap package in one country and use it entirely for roaming in another.
You are only eligible for the “Roam like at Home” when you are resident of the country where you are buying the SIM. You can only roam a certain amount of time and your home usage and roaming usage can be compared. If your roaming usage far exceeds your average home usage, the operator can start charging the rather reasonable excess prices set by the EU. In case of prepaid SIM cards, they can charge the EU set roaming prices for calls, texts and data.
The EU has set the charges that telecommunications operators can charge at the wholesale level for calls, texts and data. The current data price is 50 euros per GB that will drop to 7.7 euros per GB come June 15, 2017, and drop yearly until 2022 when it will be just 2.5 euros per GB.
I have been using Google’s Project Fi since last summer and couldn’t be happier (read more here). I pay $10 for GB of data anywhere including roaming. No need to buy SIM cards for most countries (only Vietnam and Nepal have been exceptions over the past 7 months).