HomeInsightsRoaming charges: European Commission agrees on new approach to fair use principle.

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The College of Commissioners has discussed a new approach to the fair use principle and agreed that there should be no limits in terms of timing or volume imposed on consumers when using their mobile devices abroad in the EU.  At the same time, the new approach will provide a solid safeguard mechanism for operators against potential abuses.

This new mechanism will be based on principle of residence or stable links European consumers may have with any EU Member State (frequent and substantial presence in the Member State of the roaming provider, for example).

The College discussed draft rules that will enable all travellers using a SIM card of a Member State in which they reside or with which they have stable links to use their mobile device in any other EU country, just as they would at home.

Examples of “stable links” include work commuters, expats who are frequently present in their home country or Erasmus students.  Europeans will pay domestic prices when they call, text or go online from their mobile devices and will have full access to other parts of their mobile subscription (e.g. monthly data package).

The College will adopt the final proposal by 15 December 2016, following feedback from BEREC (the Body of European Regulators in Electronic Communications), Member States and all interested parties.

In terms of safeguards for operators against abuses based on residence or permanent links to a EU country, the new draft allows operators to check usage patterns to avoid the “Roam like at Home” mechanism being abused.  A non-exhaustive list of criteria includes:

  • insignificant domestic traffic compared to roaming traffic;
  • long inactivity of a given SIM card associated with use mostly, if not exclusively, while roaming; and
  • subscription and sequential use of multiple SIM cards by the same customer while roaming.

Operators will have to alert their users if they suspect any of the above and, if the conditions are met, operators will be able to apply small surcharges (the Commission proposed a maximum of €0.04/min per call, €0.01/SMS and €0.0085/MB of data).  The operator must put complaints procedures in place to deal with disputes.  If a dispute persists, the customer will be able to complain to the national regulatory authority, which will settle the case.

Abuses could also relate to the mass purchase and resale of SIM cards for permanent use outside the country of the operator issuing them.  In such cases, the operator will be allowed to take immediate and proportionate measures while informing the national regulator.

If there are price increases in a specific market or other negative effects on domestic customers, operators can get out of the “Roam like at Home” provision and, if authorised by their national regulators, temporarily apply the same small surcharges mentioned above (a maximum of €0.04/min per call, €0.01/SMS and €0.0085/MB).  Operators will have to provide evidence to demonstrate that “Roam like at Home” was putting their domestic charging model at risk.  To read the Commission’s press release in full, click here.

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