Mobile roaming charges in EU drop further

Mobile phone users travelling in the European Union will pay less to make a call, send a text message or check emails from Saturday, as the bloc prepares to do away with most roaming charges in 2017.

At present, telecom companies charge a few extra cents per minute for a call or for each text message when customers use their phone in a country other than the one where they signed the service contract.

Most customers find roaming charges grating and EU officials have long argued that the markups make no sense in a 28-country bloc that in theory is no longer supposed to have internal borders. But telecom companies had resisted their abolishment.

The roaming charges were once as high as 35 euro cents (40 US cents) per minute for a call and 11 euro cents for a text message.

From Saturday, they are capped at 5 cents per minute for a call, 2 cents per text message and 5 cents per megabyte of data.

Most EU roaming fees will then be scrapped from June 15, 2017.

However, there will still be scope for telecom providers to charge extra fees for customers who regularly use their phones abroad, in part to prevent people from permanently using a foreign phone.

Telecom companies will also be able to continue offering phone plans that include roaming fees, as long as one of their pricing packages avoids these charges.

"These rules protect the right of every European to access the online content of their choice, without interference or discrimination," EU Digital Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said in a statement.

"They will avoid fragmentation in the [EU] single market, creating legal certainty for businesses and making it easier for them to work across borders," he added.

Also entering into force on Saturday are new rules requiring all internet traffic to be treated equally. This principle, known as net neutrality, means that service providers must offer consumers equal access to all content.

Some exceptions remain, for example to block illegal content, to fight cyberattacks, or to minimize network congestion.

"Net neutrality is the way to keep the internet as it is: open to innovation with equal access for all," said Monique Goyens of the European consumer organization BEUC.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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