European roaming charges to end in June as EU inks deal

European roaming charges to end in June as EU inks deal

BRUSSELS - Agence France-Presse
European roaming charges to end in June as EU inks deal

AFP photo

European travelers will no longer have to pay roaming charges for using their mobile phones within the EU after the bloc reached a deal on Feb. 1 that will take effect in June.

The hard-won accord is the key element towards delivering the long-delayed “free roaming” promise first made by Brussels with great fanfare in early 2015.

“This was the last piece of the puzzle. As of June 15, Europeans will be able to travel in the EU without roaming charges,” said Andrus Ansip, the commission’s vice-president for the Digital Single Market.

The plan was initially delayed when angry telecoms operators in tourist magnets such as Italy and Spain complained of the deal’s knock-on effects and threatened to hike domestic prices to pay for travelers from northern Europe using their networks.     

They complained that “free roaming” would in effect make poorer Europeans in the south pay for wealthy tourists phoning home or surfing for data while on holiday. 

Roaming charges have long been a lucrative source of extra income for telecoms companies.

To solve the issue, negotiators for the European Commission, the European Parliament and the EU’s 28 member states agreed on a scale of wholesale charges telecom operators pay each other when customers use their mobile phones abroad.

The overall deal still needs final approval by the European Parliament and member states but this is expected to be a formality.

In a move that angered consumer advocates, the Commission had in December said “free roaming” would have some limits to ensure there was no abuse of the new system.     

Telecoms operators would be able to closely track usage and crack down on users unfairly taking advantage of cheaper phone deals available in other EU countries.