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All roads will still lead to roaming charges

charging bull

via Flickr © anieto2k (CC BY-SA 2.0)

It’s difficult to understand why the European Union is having such difficulty with the roaming ‘issue’ when the overwhelming majority of EU citizens would like to see unfair charging controlled and curtailed as promised by the Commission two and more years ago and as passed into pending legislation by the European Parliament last year.

The parliament wanted roaming charges to be history by the end of 2015 but new compromises are apparently being offered up to delay execution. It’s almost as if there was vigorous lobbying and influence-peddling going on behind the scenes (see - sarcasm).

Why the hold-up?

The objections to the Parliament’s plans are coming from the national governments who, at this stage of the proceedings, are preparing to hunker down in negotiations with the Parliament and the Commission over the final shape of the legislation. So despite years of EU-level scrutiny and promises of firm action  - wholesale and retail price caps, price de-escalators, roaming competition and lots of fiery rhetoric - absurd and indefensible (the costs are negligible) roaming charges will apparently remain, although much reduced in value.

According to Reuters, which says it’s had sight of the relevant document, the European political machine is offering a compromise arrangement under which the end of roaming would be put back (not sure how far) but in the interim, telcos would be required to offer their customers somewhere north of 100 megabytes of data per year at their usual domestic rate (or within their plans) when they travel within the EU.  

That yearly roaming allowance would also include 100 minutes of incoming and outgoing voice calls and 50 text messages.  This is an improvement on an earlier proposal to give out a mere 35 of everything -  texts; megabytes of data and minutes of voice.  

If and when the customer used up the allowance they could then be charged at the wholesale rate the domestic operator is being charged by the roamed-upon operator. The maximum rate for that is currently 5 Euro cents per megabyte and the retail cap is 20 Euro cents per megabyte - more or less pro rata for voice and texts.

The final legislation is due to be hammered out (and perhaps strengthened further) in negotiations with the parliament, but it seems that this is bound to be the shape of the settlement, give or take a megabyte or 10.

So at  some point in the future the old roaming regime will finally be phased out but in the interim there will still be unwary holidaymakers, perhaps lulled by their allowance into using their phones abroad, arriving home to be shocked by a bill much larger than they expected.

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