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EU plan to scrap mobile roaming charges goes back to the drawing board

Monday, September 12th 2016 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

Detailed plans on how to end mobile roaming charges across the European Union have been withdrawn.

In October 2015, the European Parliament approved a new law banning the extra fees charged to EU travellers making calls, sending texts and using data abroad in the EU.

Roaming charges were capped in April 2016, with a full ban set to apply from by 15 June 2017.

Last week, the European Commission revealed detailed plans suggesting the full ban would include a time limit – or what the commission calls a “fair use policy”.

Under the proposal, mobile providers would be able to charge roaming fees to customers using their phones abroad for more than 90 days in a year, or for more than 30 days in a row.

According to the commission’s Digital Single Market website, the plan has now been withdrawn on the instruction of commission president Jean-Claude Juncker.

Officials are now working on a new version of the plan and have not said whether the target of June 2017 will be affected by the delay.

At the moment, roaming charges are capped at €0.05 per minute for outgoing voice calls, €0.02 for texts and €0.05 per MB of data.

The cap – and next year’s ban, in whatever form it eventually takes – will apply in all EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, but not Switzerland.

Inclusive roaming

Individual providers have been increasing the number of places they allow customers to use their inclusive minutes, texts and data without getting hit by roaming fees.

Vodafone introduced ‘inclusive roaming’ across 40 destinations earlier this year.

The operator’s inclusive roaming zone includes Turkey, Switzerland and six Caribbean islands – none of which are covered by the EU’s plans.

Vodafone said it has closely monitored its customer roaming data and knows that more than 80% of all overseas trips taken by its pay monthly customers are within its new inclusive roaming zone.

Three has been running its Feel at Home service, which allows customers to use their UK allowance in 18 holiday destinations, since 2013.

In January 2016, it said the service had saved its customers £2.6bn in roaming charges – that’s around £360 a year per customer on average.

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