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Roam-Like-At-Home from Tomorrow

James Walsh
14/06/2017
Most consumers in the UK are aware that the European Union's "Roam-like-at-home" rules will come into effect on 15 June 2017. Many are delighted by the prospect of being able to use their mobiles on their summer holidays in Europe without the fear of bill-shock that so many have experienced from using their phones abroad while they are on holidays.

Roam-Like-At-Home from Tomorrow

14 June 2017

Most consumers in the UK are aware that the European Union's "Roam-like-at-home" rules will come into effect on 15 June 2017. Many are delighted by the prospect of being able to use their mobiles on their summer holidays in Europe without the fear of bill-shock that so many have experienced from using their phones abroad while they are on holidays.  But for a regulation with a fairly simple premise, the application of the new Roaming Regulation is not without its pitfalls.  And many service providers have been carefully reviewing their plans and obligations with respect to roaming in advance of tomorrow's changes.

No more roaming surcharges

With effect from 15 June 2017, roaming providers will be prohibited from levying any surcharge in addition to the domestic retail price on roaming customers for:

  • any regulated roaming calls made or received

  • any regulated roaming SMS messages sent; and

  • any regulated data roaming services used, including MMS messages.

Likewise, roaming providers will be prohibited from levying any general charge to enable the terminal equipment or service to be used abroad.

Where's the catch?

Like most laws, the new Roaming Regulation has exceptions and limitations. A few are set out below:

  1. There's no obligation on mobile service providers to offer roaming services.

    • Yes, that's right. Mobile service providers can stop offering roaming services if they wish, or restrict their roaming offers to particular territories. Some may offer data roaming but not roaming for calls, to alleviate the burden imposed by the Roaming Regulation.

       

  2. Interpreting the outer-bounds of the European Union is no simple task.

    • The Roaming Regulation applies in Member States of the European Union and also to members of the European Economic Area. However, some 'European' countries are not part of the European Union or the European Economic Area – e.g. Switzerland. Some overseas territories are clearly within the scope of the regulation (e.g. Guadeloupe, French Guiana, Martinique, Réunion, Saint-Barthélemy, Saint-Martin, the Azores, Madeira and the Canary Islands). Other overseas countries and territories are clearly not included (e.g. Greenland and Isle of Man).

    • Just to confuse things, mobile service providers are taking different approaches to Roam-like-at-home and in some cases they are extending their offers to countries and territories to which the Roaming Regulation arguably does not apply.

       

  3. Roam-like-at-home doesn't mean that roaming is free; there's just no surcharge.

    • Roaming providers will still charge for roaming calls in Europe at the "domestic retail price". This is set at the domestic retail per-unit charge applicable to calls made and SMS messages sent (both originating and terminating on different public communications networks within the same Member State) and to data consumed by a customer.

    • If there is no specific "domestic retail price" – e.g. for bundles – then the same charging mechanism will apply. Guidance has been issued as to how to calculate 'fair use' limits for open data bundles when used for roaming in the European Union.

       

  4. The Roaming Regulation does not apply to any international calls or SMS made or sent from a customer's domestic market.

    • Mobile service providers may – and will – charge international rates for calls made and SMS sent to European numbers, despite the Roaming Regulation. However, when roaming, a customer is entitled to be charged at domestic retail prices for intra-EEA calls.

    • Bizarrely, this means that at home a customer might pay a surcharge for a call to Spain, but if roaming in France, there would be no surcharge for a call to Spain.

       

  5. Like any regulation, there are always exceptions.

    • Mobile service providers can apply to their regulators for permission to apply a surcharge for roaming where they are not able to recover their overall actual and projected costs of providing regulated roaming services from their overall actual and project revenues from the provision of such services.

    • Likewise, mobile service providers are able to adopt fair use policies which impose certain limitations on the roaming services that can be consumed by roaming customers at domestic retail prices.

All in all, customers will need to review their plan information carefully before assuming that they can truly roam-like-at-home; and mobile service providers will be continuing to review the plans that they offer from 15 June to ensure that their packages make economic sense based on roaming usage after the new changes come into force.

 

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