The European Parliament, Council and Commission have reached an agreement on the key elements of a single European telecoms market, which will end roaming charges for consumers when travelling within the European Union (EU). As such, from 15 June 2017 customers will pay the same prices at home and abroad, and any customers paying for a monthly volume of minutes, SMS and data in their own country will have the usage deducted from that allowance, with no extra charges incurred.
The European Commission (EC) fact sheet notes that rules will be put in place to prevent an abuse of the system, such as ‘permanent roaming’. For example: if a customer buys a SIM card in another EU country where domestic prices are lower to use it at home; or if the customer permanently stays abroad with a domestic subscription of his home country. To prevent this, a fair use safeguard will be put in place, and once that limit has been reached abroad, a small basic fee can be charged. The EC notes that this will be much lower than current caps, and has been mandated to define the details of the fair use limit. In addition, as part of the ruling, from April 2016 operators will be able to charge a small additional amount to domestic prices up to EUR0.05 (USD0.06) per voice minute, EUR0.02 per SMS sent, and EUR0.05 per MB of data used (excluding VAT).
Meanwhile, another facet of the EC’s decision concerns net neutrality. The new rules ‘enshrine the principle of net neutrality into EU law: no blocking or throttling of online content, applications and services.’ The EC claims that the common EU-wide internet rules will ‘contribute to a single market and reverse current fragmentation’, while declaring that every European must be able to have access to the open internet and all content and service providers must be able to provide their services via a high-quality open internet, while all traffic will be treated equally.