European mobile phone contracts are required to charge domestic rates for calls, SMS and data use when users travel in the EU starting today (15 June), capping off a ten-year fight to get rid of roaming fees.
The EU institutions are touting the popular roaming ban as a major victory after drawn-out negotiations and several rounds of new legislation. They called getting rid of the charges “one of the greatest and most tangible successes of the EU” in a joint statement yesterday from European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Parliament President Antonio Tajani and Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, who chairs the rotating presidency of the Council of the EU.
The Commission has downplayed warnings of loopholes and abuse that have dogged the legislation.
There are some catches: telecoms operators can ask national regulators to exempt them from the rules if they prove their business would suffer. Firms could also stop offering roaming altogether, meaning consumers would have no service when they cross a border in the EU. If a phone user spends more time roaming than in the country where they pay their bill, the provider can charge limited fees—capped at 3.2 cents per minute for voice calls, 1 cent per SMS and €7.7 per gigabyte of data use. Those fees will gradually fall starting next year.
Some telecoms industry sources have warned that they might have to hike up domestic rates to cover their loss from roaming.
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