From June 15 2017, European mobile subscribers will be able to ‘roam like at home’ and use their home call, text and data allowances in any other European member state at no additional cost. This is the first tangible result of Europe’s Digital Single Market strategy and results from a pro-consumer agenda consistently pursued by the European Commission since 2007 in the face of industry resistance.
The legislation underpinning the current arrangements is:
- Regulation (EU) No 531/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 June 2012 on roaming on public mobile communications networks within the Union; and
- Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2016/2286 of 15 December 2016 laying down detailed rules on the application of fair use policy and on the methodology for assessing the sustainability of the abolition of retail roaming surcharges and on the application to be submitted by a roaming provider for the purposes of that assessment.
The legislative process started back in 2007, with a ‘Eurotariff’ that capped intra-EU roaming charges for mobile calls. This was progressively extended to texts and data and the caps reduced to get to today’s position. The measures were challenged in a number of ways by industry, including by way of reference to the European Court of Justice (Case C-58/08) on the basis that the rules had no adequate legal basis, were disproportionate and offended the principle of subsidiary. The ECJ dismissed all these bases of challenge.
In order to address (to some extent) industry concerns, retail price control was complemented by more limited regulatory intervention in the wholesale roaming market in Europe. There remains ongoing concern amongst smaller operators that they will be unduly squeezed.