The withdrawal of the roaming fees for the use of mobile phones within the EU countries could be delayed thanks to an Italian proposal.
This would result in a delay of the introduction of the so called “Roam Like At Home” (RLAH) charging fees: a big gain for all the European telecom operators and a true defeat for consumers.
“Roam Like At Home” means the end of roaming charges, when operators will be obliged to charge roaming calls, sms and data traffic as if it was domestic traffic.
European Commissioner for Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, former EU Telecoms commissioner, has always described roaming charges as a “disproportionate irritant for travellers” and she has been steadfast in her opposition to roaming fees by endorsing measures to create a Single Telecoms Market as early as possible.
Charges for roaming have been repeatedly cut by the European Commission, the EU’s executive, since 2007.
As of July this year, web browsing costs were reduced by 50% and calling costs were cut by 25%, one step away from abolishing roaming fees completely and launch the “Roam Like At Home” new charging fees.
Moreover, last April the European Parliament voted to abolish roaming fees by 2016, marking the first step in the legislative process.
But on the 24th of September Italy, that holds the current Presidency of the Council of the EU, has submitted a new draft of the text where the date of December 15th 2015 proposed by the European Parliament is no longer mentioned.
The draft text says only that the deadline “needs to be defined and is a significant political question”.
“The legislative date for the initial introduction of RLAH, subject to transitional measures and fair use limits, needs to be defined and is a significant political question” states the draft document.
According to a report from Euractiv, the Italian proposal suggests a continued ‘glide path’, for the gradual reduction in retail roaming prices before eventually reaching “Roam Like At Home” rates. Industry sources said ending roaming charges was not in doubt, but the timing needed to be negotiated further, in order to give operators time to adjust.
Neelie Kroes said: “We feel the Italian presidency text has all the essential building blocks needed to push the telecoms market forward: ending roaming, a net neutrality guarantee, more co-operation on spectrum and consumer protection. It lacks some of the ambition of the commission text but it’s a good basis for further negotiations”.
EU ministers will consider the proposal at a meeting on 25th September.
Federica Romano, Head of Legal, Regulation and Research at ROCCO