July 17, 2017
The Paper notes that since 15 June 2017 roaming charges in the EU have been abolished, meaning that mobile customers are now able to use their domestic allowance of minutes, text messages and data throughout the EU (and the European Economic Area (EEA)) without incurring additional charges. To make this commercially sustainable for operators the EU has allowed operators to guard against abusive or anomalous usage through a Fair Use Regulation, which means that there are a number of exceptions to the policy.
As far as Brexit is concerned, the Paper notes that the Government has indicated that the abolition of roaming charges will continue to apply in the UK until it leaves the EU. The Paper notes also that, following Brexit, a number of scenarios are possible. Some commentators have warned that prices for wholesale and retail roaming services will increase if a replacement for the reciprocal price caps on wholesale roaming charges is not agreed. Companies which are part of large international groups will be partly insulated from such increases; other operators, particularly MVNOs, will not. The Government has indicated that Brexit will not mean an automatic re-introduction of retail roaming charges as some operators might continue to offer surcharge-free roaming services to customers.
As for whether current roaming benefits will be retained after Brexit, the Paper notes that the 2015 Government stated that the Great Repeal Bill would ensure that the same rules for roaming would apply after Brexit, and confirmed that it is exploring a number of options. The ban on retail roaming charges could be retained in domestic law, but retaining the caps on wholesale charges would require a reciprocal agreement with the EU, the Paper says. The UK could continue to participate directly in the roaming regulations if it became a non-EU member of the EEA. Alternately, provisions on wholesale roaming caps could be included in a UK-EU free trade agreement. The former Government’s position and the impact of Brexit on mobile roaming charges was the subject of Parliamentary scrutiny in 2016/17, which has now concluded. The 2017 Government has not yet made any statement on this issue. To read the Briefing Paper in full, click here.