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EU U-turns on mobile roaming fees: No 90-day cap after all

Who didn't see that one coming?

By Kat Hall, 22 Sep 2016

The European Commission has U-turned again on its plans to tear up roaming fees for customers abroad, going back to its original proposal that all charges should be abolished.

Earlier this month the commission published draft plans to force telcos across the EU to offer their customers free roaming for at least 90 days a year.

The "fair usage" concession meant users could only take advantage of the "roam like home" agreement for a maximum of 30 consecutive days – and for a total of three months in the year.

After that period, telecoms companies would have been allowed to charge people more for using their phones abroad. Those proposals were in contrast to EU plans announced last year to abolish roaming fees from June 2017 without a cap of 90 days.

But the plans for a three-month maximum period were abolished following criticism from members of the European Parliament.

Monique Goyens, director general of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) welcomed the news that time limits on roaming have been dropped, saying: "There should not be penalties for all consumers just because some hypothetically could misuse the system.

“Consumers should be able to make phone calls, send messages and use the internet for the entirety of their stay abroad and not be charged additional costs when travelling for a long period of time, working or studying in another EU country. This is what consumers expect from the single market," she said.

In the latest proposals telcos operators will be allowed to question customers whom they suspect are buying a cheap sim card in one country and using it in another country with higher phone bills.

Christian Maitre, CIO deputy of the Orange Group, and Juan José Hierro, recently told The Register the abolition of roaming fees was forcing European operators to find new routes of revenue.

Research from analyst firm Juniper found that in 2015 UK mobile operators made $3.8bn (£2.7bn) in mobile roaming revenues, out of total sales of $26.3bn (£18.4bn).

Maitre said: "Some small operators may disappear because their market was based on roaming charges." ®

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