DRAFT LAWS to introduce EU-wide free roaming on mobile operators from June next year have been withdrawn on the personal instruction of EU president Jean-Claude Juncker.
The drafts were introduced earlier this week, but questions were raised over various 'fair use' restrictions.
The draft law, which has now been withdrawn, would have limited the amount of free roaming in the EU to 90 days a year and a maximum 30 consecutive days, after which regulated roaming charges would apply.
At the same time, however, anyone returning to their 'home network' every day would not have their trip counted towards their roaming allowance.
Moreover, according to the withdrawn draft, anyone busting their limits would have had their roaming surcharges capped at 4c per minute for calls, 1c for text messages and just 0.85c per megabyte of data.
Operators would also have been able to impose restrictions on call and data volumes, and would have been allowed to require subscribers to pay for a certain volume of services on their home network before the contract could be used for roaming.
It is not clear which elements of the draft Juncker objected to, but the aim of the restrictions was to prevent SIM-card arbitrage, in which cards are bought in one country and resold in a country where prices are higher.
The draft cryptically stipulated that "the customer should nevertheless be able to consume volumes of such services equivalent to at least the average volume consumed domestically by the customers of the tariff plan in question".
This would appear to have meant that mobile operators won't be allowed to set a cheeky low limit for roaming.
Either way, new laws bringing cost-free mobile roaming will come into force on 15 June 2017 following the best part of a decade of wrangling. When the draft is completed, it will be circulated among member countries and the EU's Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communication before adoption, which is scheduled for 15 December 2016.
Mobile operators had argued that the lack of a fair use clause would encourage customers to seek out the cheapest contracts in the EU, which would punish operators in countries where costs are naturally higher, for example owing to population density or higher taxes.
It might also affect mobile investment in countries with high levels of migrant workers who might stick with contracts in their home countries.
The EU has attempted to remove cross-border roaming charges since at least 2009 and has drafted legislation accordingly since September 2013. The EC finally managed to secure agreement to end roaming charges in June 2015.
Despite the slow pace of implementation, the EU nevertheless cut the cost of roaming charges with a series of caps on the amount that mobile operators can charge. µ
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