Europe proposes tiny surcharges to compensate operators for roaming abuse

Building on its first effort two weeks ago the European Commission has unveiled more details on how the end of roaming charges will be policed, including token surcharges for aggrieved operators.

It’s been obvious since the abolition of roaming charges across Europe was first proposed around 100 years ago that the major sticking point will be people using cheaper roaming options as their main domestic service, thus destroying many domestic mobile markets.

A couple of weeks ago the EC came out with a few parameters apparently designed to protect operators from this grizzly fate, including caps for the amount of roaming an individual can do, the need to check in to the domestic network on a regular basis, and the need for prepaid roamers to spend a normal amount on domestic services before they get on their bike. The announcement concluded that contracts will be allowed to make ‘appropriate contingencies’ against this kind of abuse.

These contingencies have now been specified and they take the form of ‘small surcharges’, and small they certainly are. Even if an operator can prove a subscriber has transgressed some or all of the aforementioned parameters, it will still only be allowed to charge a maximum of €0.04/min per call, €0.01/SMS and €0.0085/MB. This translates to less than a euro per 100MB of data, which seems to offer little disincentive to abuse the system and inadequate compensation for the operator.

“Parliament and Council agreed on our proposal to end roaming charges for travellers in the EU,” said Andrus Ansip, VP for the Digital Single Market. “Together we need to ensure low prices for users all across Europe, to make full use of new mobile services. European consumers would not accept it otherwise.”

“Commission action on roaming prices has delivered for European consumers,” said Günther H. Oettinger, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society. “Today’s draft rules ensure we can end roaming charges as of 15 June 2017 for all people who travel periodically in the EU, while ensuring that operators have the tools to guard against abuse of the rules.”

EC Commissioners are always careful to remind us just how much better they’ve made our lives, and there’s no question that European consumers have directly benefitted from the abolition of roaming charges. There seems to have been little thought given to its impact on telcos, however, and this proposed solution seems token at best.

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