EU drops limits on free roaming

European Commission ditches 90-day cap on free data roaming

The European Commission has confirmed it will take a “new approach” to roaming charges, after its latest draft was heavily criticised. 

Laid out last week, the plan saw all roaming charges dropped across the EU – but that free roaming was limited to only 90 days. While the average European traveller is only on the road for 12 days at a time, critics said the cap would prove troubling for people spending winters in warmer regions. 

On the other hand, no limit at all could mean Europeans buy a cheaper plan from a neighbouring country, which could prove costly for mobile operators. 

European regulators today said there would be no limits in terms of timing or usage volume imposed on consumers. However, there would be controls placed to protect operators from abuse. 

The Commissioners have discussed draft rules that would mean users have a SIM card from the member state that they reside in or have a stable link to, giving operators the ability to check usage patterns of their customers. If they have an “insignficant domestic traffic compared to roaming traffic,” or long periods of inactivity on a SIM that’s only used for travel, their account may be flagged and could be charged extra. 

“Examples of ‘stable links’ include work commuters, expats who are frequently present in their home country or Erasmus students,” the statement explained. 

The changes are expected to come into effect in June 2017. For Brits, that’s likely ahead of Brexit, meaning UK operators will have to stop charging for roaming too, until we leave the EU. What happens then is a matter of some debate, but many operators already offer “roam like home” plans across many European countries, so any change could prove limited. 

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