EU roaming charges: Scheme that scraps extra fees for using mobile phone around bloc extended

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One of the EU’s signature schemes to scrap mobile phone roaming charges is being extended.

MEPs say they have reached a deal with EU countries to keep the policy in place for another decade until 2032.

The “Roam Like at Home” regulation has been in place since 2017. It allows EU residents to call, text and use mobile data while travelling within the EU at no extra cost and with the same quality they experience at home.

“The new regulation will prolong until 2032 the existing system whereby citizens cannot be subject to extra charges for calls or data used while travelling within the EU and it will also bring about new advantages,” the European Commission said in a statement.

Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, added that “travelling abroad without having to worry about phone bills is a tangible part of the EU Single Market experience for all Europeans. Today we are not only ensuring that this experience continues, but we are upgrading it: better quality, better services, even more transparency.”

The new regulation, which will come into force on July 1, 2022, will introduce additional advantages and protections for consumers such as 5G coverage wherever possible for people who usually have 5G services at home, says the European Commission.

Operators will also have to inform consumers of additional charges when calling services such as service numbers, helpdesks or insurance companies which are usually free of charge or with limited charges when phoning from home.

They will also have to inform their customers via a text message of how to contact emergency services when travelling including the 112 phone number and any alternative means of accessing emergency services such as via real-time-text or available apps, for people with disabilities.

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The regulation will also introduce lower wholesale charges — the costs charged by hosting mobile operators, in exchange for access to their respective networks.

“It is very good news that the agreement reached not only confirms that the ban on roaming charges will continue, it will also improve the existing roaming experience for consumers,” said Ursula Pachl, the deputy director-general of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).

“For example, consumers should now receive the same quality of service when roaming as when they are in their home country, as long as it is technically feasible.

“It is also positive that consumers will be better protected against bill shocks that are caused by connecting inadvertently to a non-EU mobile or a satellite network.

“It is a shame that the final agreement does not include cheaper intra-EU calls or messaging. Despite the existing caps, consumers still pay exorbitant prices for calling another EU country compared to making a domestic call, which is unjustified given that we live in an EU Single Market and have tackled roaming prices. We call on the Commission to propose legislation that further brings down the cost of intra-EU communications as soon as feasible.”

According to a February 2021 Eurobarometer, 33% of respondents who travelled abroad reported lower mobile internet speed than they usually get at home, and 28% had a lower network standard abroad — 3G network instead of 4G.

A study conducted by the Joint Research Centre and released in March also found that 25% of customers had, at least once, experienced worse quality of service in roaming compared to at home, even when network conditions could have provided better quality.

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