The extra costs associated with using a mobile phone in European countries other than the one you live in are to be scrapped. The ban on data roaming charged, agreed by MEPs in June after years of negotiations, has been passed into law, and will take effect from 15 June 2017.
Roaming charges are currently added to phone bills when users browse the web, make calls or send text messages while abroad. Once the ban kicks in, tourists traveling within the EU won’t notice any difference between the cost of mobile connectivity at home and abroad. The move was described by former vice-president of the European Commission Viviane Reding as “a victory for consumers.”
It’s been a long road for anti-roaming campaigners, as EU member states voiced concern about the potential financial impact on their domestic telecoms providers. A proposal for a roaming ban to take effect this year was scrapped after negotiations stalled.
The overall ban will be preceded by a ‘phasing out’ process to lessen the burden on operators and allow time for the infrastructure to adjust.
As things stand, operators can charge tourists up to 22 cents (around 14 pence) per minute for outgoing calls, five cents for incoming calls, six cents per text message and 20 cents per megabyte of data. That’s in addition to their regular tariff. As of April 2016, the costs will be reduced to five cents per minute, two cents per text message and five cents per megabyte.
The impending ban has been welcomed by consumers and campaigners, especially advocates of net neutrality, who broadly oppose unregulated tariff-setting for electronic communications. Under the new telecommunications law, operators will be required to treat all web traffic equally. For net neutrality advocates, the ban on roaming charges is another victory in the fight to keep the lines of digital exchange as open and free to the widest number of people possible.