The European Commission is encouraging operators to abolish roaming charges completely, not just for the 90 days annually they are obliged to offer under draft rules.
Rules published earlier this week are intended to strike a balance between protecting operators against arbitrage and safeguarding consumers, said vice president Andrus Ansip (pictured) and EU commissioner Guenther Oettinger.
Operators must allow customers to roam at domestic prices for at least 90 days per year under the rules
“Mobile phone companies can always offer more or even choose not to apply limits at all. Some have already done so, and we strongly encourage this,” the two EU chiefs said in a statement yesterday.
The end of roaming charges will come into effect on 15 June 2017.
It is possible some operators might see a business advantage in offering ‘free’ roaming for more than 90 days a year to gain competitive advantage over rivals: at least that is what the commission is hoping will happen.
For instance, 3 UK offers a tariff called Feel at Home which enables users on certain tariffs to use their voice, SMS and data allowance abroad, including in EU states, with no additional charge, although with certain restrictions. If users go beyond their allowance they must pay a roaming rate.
The EC’s 90-day minimum is designed to protect operators’ network quality and investment in new capacity in some countries, Ansip and Oettinger argued. The average European travels for 12 days per year, the statement said.
The commission wants to pre-empt users buying a SIM in another EU country where domestic prices are lower to use at home, or customers moving abroad with a domestic subscription from their home country.
In such a situation, operators might have to raise domestic mobile prices to compensate for losses, which would be counter-productive.
At the same time, the EC’s new rules are designed to protect users who travel to and from work, crossing borders every day.