In June of last year the European Commission announced that they would be cutting the price caps on data roaming charges by more than half. Previously the caps had been set at 45 cents per megabyte; as of 1st July 2014 they were set at 20 cents per megabyte.
They also reduced the caps on making a call (from 24c to 19c per minute), receiving a call (from 7c to 5c per minute), and sending a text message (from 8c to 6c).
This was decidedly Good News. It meant that business owners who had to travel in the EU were facing smaller phone bills, and that families and individuals who were holidaying were less afraid to keep their phones on lest they be whacked with an unexpected data roaming charge.
As of 15th December 2015, roaming charges will be no more.
Members of the European Parliament have voted – by 534 votes to 25 – to ban these extra charges all together. The proposed reforms need to be approved by the Council of the European Union, however, before they take effect.
There have been concerns amongst some parties – some network providers, and internet service providers – that the system is unworkable or open to abuse.
It is possible that removing roaming charges could reduce revenue to some companies, but there are hopes that this will be countered by the industry as a whole working together to invest in building networks that can handle an increasing volume of data. There is also the less easily measured factor of whether a large enough number of people who currently turn their phones off whilst abroad to avoid roaming charges, would continue to use them during that time instead.
A proposal by Italy to set a ‘fair use’ limit might also prevent the problem of people abusing the system. As it stands, by committing to banning roaming charges, the EU has potentially opened the doors to businesses and individuals getting the cheapest mobile phone deal from any EU country, and using it elsewhere. The ‘fair use’ proposal would mean that a certain percentage only of a user’s phone usage could be in another country to that of their original deal.
No doubt there will be those of you who are wondering why the EU even care about roaming charges; businesses decide upon their own terms and conditions, don’t they?
There are two main reasons that the EU have been steadily reducing roaming charges over the last seven years. Firstly; they care because we’ve told them to. That’s all part of government. But secondly; they care because of their digital single market policy.
The European Commission is centred on the plan for a single European market, where Member States can trade freely, with no barriers. They have said that the digital single market holds “one of the main keys to a new dynamic across the European economy as a whole, fostering jobs, growth, innovation and social progress”.
What do you think? Is the removal of roaming charges integral to the process of creating a digital single market? And is this all a good thing? Talk to us at Fivebars Mobile and share your views on our Facebook and Twitter.
(image – travelandleisure.com)