EU takes a u-turn on mobile roaming charges issue

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EU member states have postponed the plan of scrapping mobile phone roaming charges in the 28-member bloc from the end of this year until at least 2018.

Currently, mobile phone customers in the EU are charged extra roaming charges for making calls, text messages or internet usage in member states other than their own.

In 2013, the European Commission had proposed a plan to end costly roaming surcharges by the end of 2015.

However, at a meeting held in Brussels on Wednesday, the European Council has decided upon to send the package back to Parliament for further discussions, arguing that a new pricing mechanism, to be introduced from mid-2016, should in the meantime mean lower costs.

“Within certain limits to be determined, consumers could make and receive calls, send SMSs and use data services without paying anything extra on top of the domestic fee,” the European Council said in a statement.

“Once this basic roaming allowance is used up, the operator may charge a fee but this fee will be much lower than current charges,” it said.

“As the next step, the (European) Commission will be asked to assess by mid-2018 what further measures may be needed with a view to phasing out roaming charges.”

Some EU members were hugely critical of the decision. The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats condemned the decision saying “The only winners from it are national telecoms operators themselves. Member states should hang their heads in shame.”

The EC said it will review the matter again in 2018.