After a long fight, S&Ds welcome end to roaming charges and guarantee on net neutrality
The S&D Group was the first to call for the end of roaming charges within the EU – four years ago now. Today, the plenary of the European Parliament finally passed a new piece of legislation which will put an end to extra costs for using mobile phones in another EU country by 15 June 2017.
The new telecoms regulation will also guarantee an open and non-discriminatory internet based on the principle of net neutrality.
The S&D Group would have liked to see an earlier end to roaming charges and a broader scope for this regulation. However, they voted in favour of the report because it will ensure the immediate phasing out of cross-border charges within the EU* and introduce strong safeguards on net neutrality. The S&D Group will continue working to ensure this regulation is correctly implemented and also to regulate certain aspects of the telecoms market that were postponed, such as the spectrum auction.
S&D vice-president Kathleen Van Brempt said:
"When the S&D Group called for the end of roaming charges four years ago, there was a lot of opposition from national governments, from the EPP Group in the Parliament and even from the Commission. Our perseverance changed the situation and we already have a date on the horizon: 2017. This is a compromise between our call to end charges by 2016 and the member states’ insistence on delaying changes till 2018.
“We have managed to find a good balance between consumer protection and the fair use of roaming charges, to make sure that there are no abuses such as people not changing their number when they move to another EU country. We will closely watch the implementation of this clause, in co-operation with the Commission.
“The net neutrality principle will be enshrined into 28 national legal systems and will oblige internet service providers across Europe to treat all internet traffic equally without discrimination, restriction or interference, and irrespective of the sender and receiver, the content, the applications or services used.”
S&D shadow rapporteur in the industry committee Patrizia Toia said:
"There were very tough negotiations where the S&D Group was the driving force for change: we first persuaded all stakeholders to accept the real target of ending all roaming charges and then we successfully opposed the attempt to introduce price caps. We have achieved a balanced regulation that will benefit consumers, will tear down artificial national borders and will also allow for thriving telecoms and on-line industries.
“But this is not the end. Today we won a battle, but we have already started working on new reforms to build a fully functional single market for telecoms in the EU. It is essential for a dynamic European industry based on innovation and the first step towards a framework for a sound Digital Agenda.”
* The S&D negotiators insisted on having a clear end-date for roaming costs and we finally have it: 15 June 2017. Roaming fees will already decrease on 30 April 2016, when the current retail caps will be replaced by a maximum surcharge of €0.05 per minute for calls, €0.02 for SMSs and €0.05 per megabyte for data.