Roaming charges scrapped by EU from 2017, meaning people can phone as normal while on holiday

The European Parliament opposed amendments to the bill suggested by internet activists, which would have ensured ‘net neutrality’ was upheld

Andrew Griffin
Wednesday 28 October 2015 10:35

The European Union has scrapped all roaming charges on the continent, meaning that people will be able to use their phones without fear of racking up huge bills.

Mobile phone users will be able to stay on their normal contracts, being charged as if they were in their home country. The new rules will come in from 2017.

Roaming charges will become cheaper from April next year, when operators will only be able to charge a small additional amount to domestic prices of up to 0.05 euro (3p) per minute of call made, 0.02 euro (1p) per SMS sent, and 0.05 euro (3p) per MB of data, excluding VAT.

European Commission vice president Andrus Ansip, responsible for the Digital Single Market, said: "The voice of Europeans has been heard. Today's vote is the final result of intense efforts to put an end to roaming charges in the European Union and to safeguard the open internet.

"As from mid-June 2017, Europeans will pay the same price to use their mobile devices when travelling in the EU as they do at home. And they will already pay less as from April 2016.

"This is not only about money, this is about bringing down barriers in the Digital Single Market. Today's achievement is a first step towards a Telecoms Single Market."

Though the European Parliament voted through the roaming charges legislation, it rejected 24 amendments that had been supported by leading internet companies and inventor of the web Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Those amendments had been introduced to avoid a “two-tier internet” that could pave the wave for “paid fast-lanes for internet traffic”.

The proposed amendments were aimed at preventing larger internet companies from prioritising their content over other internet traffic and curbing zero rating - when internet service providers charge companies to deliver their services.

According to a document published by the EP ahead of Tuesday's vote, net neutrality "is the principle that all online traffic should be treated equally, regardless of the type of content or platforms involved".

However, the EP admits an operator will be able to offer specialised services (such as the improved internet quality needed for certain services) - on condition that this does not have an impact on general internet quality.

Prior to today's vote, scores of companies including Netflix, Reddit, Tumblr, and Vimeo signed a letter to EP president Martin Schulz urging MEPs to adopt the amendments.

In a statement released yesterday, Sir Tim called the existing legislation "weak and confusing" and warned it "will threaten innovation, free speech and privacy".

Following today's approval, the draft regulation will immediately enter into force in all member states, the EP said. It added that in six months, the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications is expected to issue general guidelines for national regulators, responsible for overseeing the implementation.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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