Mobile phone roaming will end in July 2017 and will be significantly cut next summer in an agreement on telecoms laws reached last night between MEPs and representatives of EU governments.
The deal, reached after so-called trilogue discussions today involving the European Commission, Council and Parliament, does contain some areas of concern for Conservative MEP and lead negotiator for the European Conservatives and Reformists Group, Vicky Ford MEP.
In particular, the parliament has removed specific exemptions for spam filtering and parental controls from the law, but these can be maintained if brought under national law, giving governments until the end of 2016 to pass legislation enabling the status quo to continue. Mrs Ford was frustrated that the agreement does not specifically exempt them but worked overnight with experts from the UK to achieve this solution which will enable the UK to continue with parental controls on the internet.
The so-called ‘Telecoms Single Market’ package will now be put to representatives from the 28 counties for confirmation. As well as ending mobile roaming charges, the law also establishes in law the principle of so-called net neutrality, for the first time.
Vicky Ford MEP said: “We finally have a date for the complete abolition of mobile roaming charges.
“From next summer people travelling in Europe will see a significant cut on their roaming charges, and from 2017 they will be abolished altogether, enabling people to use their apps, make calls and send a text just as if they were at home.
“This is a sensible timescale that gives mobile operators the time to sort out the marketplace in preparation for the abolition of roaming fees.
“On net neutrality it is important that the internet remains open and neutral, and we now have rules in place on how traffic is managed, to ensure that there is no anti-competitive behaviour.
“Making sure children can use the Internet safely is vital. It was therefore crucial that parental controls such as those used in the UK can continue. Last-minute changes to the agreement will not exempt parental controls and spam blockers from the law, but after very close liaison with ministers back in the UK, we have negotiated a position that should allow the British government to pass its own law to maintain parental controls. There will be a transition period to allow this to be put in place and we will be scrutinising the detail to make sure the UK can continue to have parental controls.
“This law was aimed at improving the rights of consumers and giving telecoms operators clarity on the rules going forward. In many areas we have achieved our goals, but some of the last-minute fudges in the legislation have left some question marks hanging over how this will be implemented.”