EC withdraws proposals for 'fair use' limits on roaming surcharge abolition

EC president Jean-Claude Juncker

European Commission (EC) president Jean-Claude Juncker has ordered the withdrawal and redrafting of proposals for a "fair use" policy that would go along with the abolition of roaming surcharges within the EU.

The EU's new roaming rules, finalised last October, dismayed consumer groups. While many were expecting the outright abolition of roaming surcharges, the fair-use loophole allows for conditions to be attached.

Earlier this week, commission VP Andrus Ansip and digital economy commissioner Günther Oettinger said roaming charges would only be abolished for a minimum of 90 days per year, once the new rules come into force in 2017.

Operators could offer more days of surcharge-free usage, they said, but they were setting this minimum level in order to "strike the right balance" between protecting those who travel within the EU (apparently for an average of 12 days a year) and operators' network investments. If people could roam with no limits at all, they might abuse the system, the Commission argued.

Consumer groups were apoplectic. The European Consumer Organization (BEUC) complained that the limits would not create a "real digital single market" as promised, and that the Commission was "focused on safeguarding the short-term interests of the telecom sector and not really focusing on the long-term interests of consumers and citizens."

Their outrage appears to have been heard.

"In the light of the feedback that we have received… the president has instructed the services to withdraw that draft proposal and to work on a new one, a better one," commission deputy chief spokesman Alexander Winterstein said in a press conference on Friday.

Winterstein would not be drawn on precisely what the problem with the original proposal was. "The president feels that this proposal is not satisfactory and that we need to aim higher and come up with something better," he said when pressed on the details, although he noted that Juncker's decision was political in nature.

"Roaming charges are going to disappear entirely by June 2017," he added, claiming the Commission had always been consistent on this point.

For more:
- see this EC announcement

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