PositionCommittee on Industry

Extra charges for cell phone communications between member states will disappear in December 2015 if the European Parliament adopts the compromise on roaming currently on the table. MEPs seem to have reached an agreement on this aspect of the telecoms package, to be put to the vote in the Committee on Industry (ITRE), on 25 February in Strasbourg. Internet neutrality, the most contentious issue in the package, is still being debated.

According to the compromise amendments, consumers will pay for calls and data transfers from another member state at the same rate as at home from 15 December 2015. The European Commission proposed the date of 2014.

A safety net would be put in place to prevent consumers from buying inexpensive fixed-rate packages abroad and using them in their state of residence. This tactic would pave the way to an internal market for packages but would be costly to operators, who will in fact offer this "free roaming" at a loss. The safety net takes the form of a fair-use limits clause tabled by Pilar del Castillo (EPP, Spain) in the draft regulation(1). The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) would be in charge of defining these fair-use limits in greater detail.

The text amended by MEPs no longer caps the wholesale prices charged by national operators to operators in the state where their customers are travelling. The compromise amendments simply include a July 2015 revision clause. By then, the Commission will have to have held consultations and presented a proposal if necessary to amend the existing provisions on wholesale prices.

In other words, MEPs will not be dealing with the crux of the matter: the wholesale prices charged between operators, an essential point for small operators that lack leeway to negotiate wholesale rates.

The solution taking shape in Parliament will therefore certainly permit outgoing MEPs and the Commission to pride themselves on having passed legislation favourable to consumers...

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