EU puts another nail in roaming charges’ coffin, but it’s not dead yet

2 Dec 2016

Image: Kitja Kitja/Shutterstock

The deathly slow removal of mobile roaming charges in the EU took another step towards its ultimate resolution this week, with the European Parliament agreeing a new cap on services.

Varied, exaggerated roaming charges are one clear example that the EU’s barrier-free trade zone does not perform as well as it reads on the label.

Customers in Italy or France travel on holiday to the UK or Spain and their mobile contracts are, essentially, different once they cross into foreign lands.

But for years now, the EU has been trying to change this. Pencilled in for June 2017, it is not long now until roaming charges officially end in the EU.


Despite there still being plenty of bureaucratic headaches ahead, Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, the MEP steering the legislation through the European Parliament, hopes this week’s decision proves pivotal.

Caps on the wholesale prices that telecoms operators charge each other for using their networks to carry cross-border ‘roaming’ calls were agreed by industry MEPs, by a vote of 53 to 5.

This gives a “strong mandate” for member state negotiations on how the EU will proceed, according to Kumpula-Natri, who insists the single aim of ‘roam like at home’ remains.

“Consumers must benefit from competition from small and virtual telecoms operators too after next summer,” she said.

“All citizens must have access to digital services, which today means lower prices and bigger amounts of data.”

The European Parliament didn’t stop there, though, with streaming regulations also under the microscope, and also evidence that virtual trade barriers still remain.

New rules have been agreed to enable EU citizens subscribing to services that give access to online music, games, films or sporting events, to enjoy this content while abroad in another EU country.

The provision of copyright-protected online content services is still largely characterised by territorial and exclusive licensing practices, which result in a lack of cross-border portability in the EU. This will change with this proposal.

“I am very pleased, as rapporteur, to have been able to take part in drafting this regulation, which makes it possible to introduce the uniform application of portability rules in Europe, a reform much awaited by our fellow citizens,” said Jean-Marie Cavada, MEP.

“I am all the more pleased that the report makes it possible to ensure respect for territoriality, which is essential for the proper development and financing of the audiovisual and cinematographic sector in Europe.”

In short, when this is passed through law, Netflix and Spotify accounts in one country should be fully respected when crossing borders into another.

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic