By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 01 July 2022 • 9:57
The new regulations are effective from today July 1, extending the right of EU citizens to use their mobile phones throughout Europe as they would in their home country until 2032.
New benefits for businesses and consumers have been added to the new regulations and in particular an improved roaming experience.
Consumers now will have the right to the same quality of mobile internet abroad, as the one they have at home. Operators providing mobile services should ensure that consumers have access to use 4G, or the more advanced 5G, networks, if these are available at the destination the consumer is visiting. Consumers should be able to find information about network availability in their mobile service contracts and on the operators’ websites.
When consumers travel by plane or on boats, mobile phones may automatically connect to the on-board network, provided by satellites. Using mobile connection services provided by non-terrestrial networks may be subject to very high surcharges. The new roaming rules oblige operators to protect their consumers and notify them if their phones switch to a non-terrestrial network. Additionally, operators should automatically interrupt mobile services if the mobile services over non-terrestrial networks reach charges of €50 or another predefined limit. Operators may also offer additional services, such as the possibility to opt-out from roaming on planes and boats.
Consumers should be able to make informed decisions about using services that may subject them to additional costs. When travelling abroad, calling customer service, insurance and airline helpdesks, or SMS texting to participate in contests or events, may be more expensive than it costs at home. Operators have to make sure to provide consumers with information about the types of phone numbers that may carry additional costs when consumers dial or access them from abroad. Operators should inform consumers via automatic SMS messages sent when crossing the border to another EU country, as well as in the service contracts.
The new roaming rules are ensuring that citizens are aware of the single EU emergency number 112, which they can use anywhere in the EU to reach emergency services. By June 2023, operators should send automatic messages to their customers who travel abroad to inform them about the available alternative means of reaching emergency services, such as through real-time text or apps. Those citizens who are not able to make voice calls may use these alternative means.
The new Roaming regulation sets lower wholesale charges, the cost to operators for using networks abroad to provide services to their customers when they are abroad. The wholesale caps are set at levels that ensure that operators can sustain and recover the cost of providing roaming services to consumers at domestic prices:
Lower wholesale charges benefit consumers, as they should ensure that all operators are able to offer competitive roaming subscriptions in line with the “roam like at home” principle.
In the latest Eurobarometer from February 2021, 33 per cent of respondents who travelled abroad had lower mobile internet speed than they usually had at home, and 28 per cent had a lower network standard abroad (i.e. a 3G network instead of 4G).
A study conducted by the Joint Research Centre found that 25 per cent of customers had, at least once, experienced a worse quality of service in roaming compared to at home, even when network conditions could have provided better quality. As the previous Roaming regulation was due to expire on 30 June 2020 and, in order to allow all mobile phone and Internet users to continue being connected at no extra charge when travelling across the Member States, the Commission had proposed in February 2021 a new improved Roaming regulation. It enters into force tomorrow, 1 July.
In confirming that the new rules apply from today Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, said: “With our roaming regulation we have all benefitted from Roam-like-at-home. We can call, text and use the Internet without extra costs when we travel in the EU. This is a very tangible benefit of our European Single Market. Prolonging these rules will keep inter-operator prices competitive, and allow consumers to continue enjoying free-of-charge roaming services for the next ten years.”
Her views were echoed by Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market, who added: “Remember when we had to switch off mobile data when travelling in Europe — to avoid ending up with a massive roaming bill? Well this is history. And we intend to keep it this way for at least the next 10 years. Better speed, more transparency: we keep improving EU citizens’ lives.”
The EU “roam like at home” has been a boon for European residents and the news that it has been both extended and improved with additional benefits, will be widely welcomed.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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