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article imageMobile roaming fees to be outlawed in Europe in 2017

By James Walker     Oct 27, 2015 in Technology
The European Parliament has passed a law that will make it illegal for mobile carriers to charge roaming fees when their customers use their phones abroad. The popular ruling is designed to help battle cases of "bill shock."
Using a mobile phone abroad while on holiday can often run up bills running into the hundreds even with only moderate usage. A surge in the numbers of people coming home to unexpectedly high charges has led to the EU taking action as the operators have been unwilling to help themselves.
The Verge reports that the new law is part of a package of legislation designed to strengthen the protection of net neutrality in the EU. It prevents mobile networks from issuing roaming fees after June 15th 2017 and mandates capped roaming rates from next year.
As of April 30th 2016, networks won't be able to charge an extra of any more than €0.05 per minute for outgoing calls, €0.02 for texts and €0.05 per megabyte of data when a customer uses their phone abroad. The measure is intended to ease the pressure on consumers before the fees are outlawed altogether in the following year. The cap is expected to make EU-wide roaming 75% cheaper than it is today.
The plan has been widely praised and strongly supported within the European Parliament. The Verge reports that Spanish MP Pilar del Castillo, rapporteur of today's debate, said: "This abolition of roaming surcharges has been long awaited by everybody. Thanks to this agreement, Europe will also become the only region in the world which legally guarantees open Internet and net neutrality. The principle of net neutrality will be applied directly in the 28 member states. It also ensures that we will not have a two-speed Internet."
Although the law has been received popularly by many, there remain some points of controversy. A key sticking point is that networks will remain free to implement "fair-use" policies that could see fines imposed if customers are thought to be using their allowances excessively. Carriers can already charge customers deemed to be abusing "unlimited" data plans and they will be left to determine when a customer is no longer adhering to a concept of "fair use".
The EU's claims that the contents of the legislative package help to guarantee net neutrality and ensure "we will not have a two-speed Internet" have also come under intense fire. Critics have taken aim at the parliament's failure to close legal loopholes that could allow technology companies to create the Internet "fast lanes" that threaten to undermine the principles of net neutrality.
The bill includes a clause that says companies could pay to have "specialised services" delivered over the Internet more quickly than that of others, making allowances for the sort of possibilities that it is designed to make impossible. The presence of the loopholes has led some advocates of net neutrality to say that Europe now has poorer standards than the U.S.
More about Eu, Europe, Law, Roaming, Charge
 
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