As of 15 June this year roaming charges will be abolished across the EU, marking the culmination of a 10-year campaign by the European Commission to reduce the surcharges imposed by telecom operators on customers travelling within the bloc. The move was finalised by a vote in the European Parliament on a recommendation agreed by the European Commission and Council of Ministers to scrap extra fees on calls, texts and data usage for customers while on holiday or business trips in another EU country.
Speaking after the vote, which was passed in the parliament by 549 in favour to 27 against, Vice-President for Digital Single Market Andrus Ansip said, “After nearly ten years, the EU is now putting a definitive end to the roaming anxiety that has plagued Europe since the beginning of the mobile era. Exorbitant roaming prices were an anomaly in a continent where people move freely between countries.”
The measure had been met with strong resistance from telecoms operators in countries like Spain and Italy, which see large numbers of tourists, who argued that they would have to hike prices for domestic users to cover the costs of wealthy tourists phoning home or using data while on holiday.
The legislative process towards free roaming began in 2007 when a Eurotariff was imposed that capped the maximum price that could be charged to customers making phone calls abroad. Another major milestone came in June 2016 when a cap was placed on wholesale roaming charges – the price national operators charge for using each others network. As a result of the these and other measures, the cost of making calls and sending text messages abroad fell by 92% between 2007 and 2017, while the cost of connecting to mobile internet fell by 96%.
The total abolition of roaming charges is one of the cornerstones of the EU’s drive to create a single digital market in Europe to make it cheaper to buy, sell and access online goods and services across national borders.
“By creating a connected digital single market, we can generate up to €250 billion of additional growth in Europe in the course of the mandate of the next Commission, thereby creating hundreds of thousands of new jobs, notably for younger job-seekers, and a vibrant knowledge-based society,” said European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in a press release accompanying the launch of the initiative.