An end to retail roaming surcharges in Europe is in sight, following a vote related to wholesale price caps by Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). In a press release the European Parliament confirmed that an informal deal on wholesale price caps had been endorsed in a vote which saw 549 votes in favour, to just 27 against and 50 abstentions. As a result, the abolition of retail roaming surcharges is now expected from 15 June 2017, with the move enabling consumers to call, text and use mobile data for the same price, whether at home or when travelling in another EU country.
In terms of the agreement on wholesale roaming prices, a separate European Commission (EC) press release noted that this will introduce caps, those being: EUR0.03 (USD0.03) per minute for voice calls, a 36% drop from the current level; EUR0.01 per text message (down 50%); and EUR7.7 per GB of data (down 85%). Looking further ahead, it was also confirmed that the cap for data will gradually decrease, to EUR2.5 per GB by 2022. These new, lower wholesale charges will reportedly ensure that ‘the end of roaming charges is put on a sustainable footing for both telecoms companies and for consumers’, with individual operators not disadvantaged by a significant gap between wholesale prices and the cost of what their customers use abroad. Further, it is also claimed that the new wholesale caps will protect consumers by making sure that if they exceed their contract limits while roaming, any additional charges will be no higher than the wholesale roaming caps agreed. The Council of the EU is, meanwhile, expected to formally approve the agreement on wholesale roaming prices later this year, with this being the last legislative step needed to make possible the end of roaming charges from 15 June. Beyond that, the EC has said it will provide a preliminary assessment of the wholesale market by 15 December 2018, before carrying out a full review by the end of 2019.
Commenting on the matter, EC Vice-president for the Digital Single Market, Andrus Ansip, was cited as saying: ‘After nearly ten years, the EU is now putting a definitive end to the roaming anxiety that has plagued Europe since the beginning of the mobile era. Exorbitant roaming prices were an anomaly in a continent where people move freely between countries. With the end of roaming charges for travellers, we will achieve a much more vibrant Digital Single Market. At last, people will be able to stop turning off their data or phones when they cross an EU border and this will have an immediate positive impact on the lives of Europeans.’