European Union roaming regulations

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European Union European Union regulation:
Regulation (EC) No 717/2007
Regulation on roaming on public mobile telephone networks within the Community
(Text with EEA relevance)
Made by European Parliament & Council
Made under Art. 95 TEC
Journal reference L171 Vol. 50 2007-06-29, pp. 32–40
History
Made 2007-06-27
Came into force 2007-06-30
Preparative texts
Commission proposal 2006-07-12
EP opinion Approved
Other legislation
Amends Directive 2002/21/EC
Amended by Regulation (EC) No 544/2009
Replaced by Regulation (EU) No 531/2012
Status: Repealed

The European Union (EU) has passed several regulations relating to mobile roaming. These relate to the provision of mobile telephony services, such as voice calls, SMS messages and mobile internet, based in one member state of the European Economic Area but used in another member state.

The current regulation in force is "Regulation (EU) No 531/2012 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 June 2012 on roaming on public mobile communications networks within the Union", which repealed and replaced the original "Regulation (EC) No 717/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 June 2007 on roaming on public mobile telephone networks within the Community and amending Directive 2002/21/EC" with effect from 1 July 2012.

Prices within this regulation are sometimes referred with the Eurotariff name.

General information

The European Commission had repeatedly urged mobile operators to lower the charges for using mobile phones abroad, but they remained on average four times more expensive than domestic mobile phone calls. The data rates are 500 to 1,000 times more expensive than domestic rates. To highlight the continuing problem, the Commission launched a consumer website on roaming tariffs in October 2005. It exposed roaming prices of up to 12 euro for a 4-minute call. As even this did not change the pricing behaviour of mobile operators, the Commission proposed to intervene by regulating. The proposal for a regulation to lower international roaming charges within the EU was published by the Commission in July 2006.

After proposal there was a public consultation on the roaming prices where people could express their opinion regarding this matter.

Primarily changes of the existing situation were backed by Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. Finally, after debates the Regulation was approved by European parliament. The regulation caps the rates operators can charge each other while roaming in the EU and also limits the tariffs an operator can charge from customers.

The regulation entered into force on 30 June 2007. From this date on, mobile phone operators within the European Union were required to inform customers about the new tariffs (called "Eurotariff") within one month (i.e. by 31 July 2007) and provide an offer for switching to the new tariff. If a customer responded to this offer, the mobile phone operator had to switch them to the new tariff within at most one month. If they did not respond, the new tariff automatically applied the latest on 30 September 2007, unless a special roaming package applied. The ceilings or Eurotariff gradually decreases every year. Operators are able to compete below maximum allowed level.

A Eurotariff is available in 31 countries: all members of the European Economic Area (28 EU members, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). It applies no matter if you are a pre-paid or post-paid customer. Switching to a Eurotariff is free of charge with no effect on your existing mobile phone contract. Also subscribers receive an SMS when crossing the border to another EU or EEA Member State informing them about the price (including all taxes) for making and receiving calls. This message is free. It also contains phone number where subscriber can call to find out more detailed prices by SMS or over the phone. Calling this number is free of charge.

Another decision made in October 2007 specified that this matter has relevance for the European Economic Area (EEA) states. This means that the tariffs caps apply to EEA member states (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) as of 1 January 2008.1

In the middle of 2008 the Commission asked for comments on the review of the roaming rules and their possible extension to SMS and data roaming services. 39 questions were raised about the general functioning of the roaming regulation as well as specific issues concerning:

  • Inadvertent roaming or involuntary roaming, when consumers use their mobile phone close to the border of a neighbouring country and are connected to a foreign network.
  • The effect of the rules on smaller operators and on domestic prices: have the new rules led to an increase in domestic prices?
  • The issue of actual vs. billed call duration: has there been any change from per second to per minute billing as a result of the new rules?
  • The need to extend the duration of the rules.
  • The need for similar rules concerning data and SMS roaming services at wholesale and/or retail levels in light of current retail prices and market developments.

A regulation on SMS was studied by the EU Commission. Commissioner Viviane Reding gave operators until 1 July 2008 to lower SMS and data roaming charges. The Commission then sent letters to the CEOs of all European mobile operators inquiring about their SMS and data prices. The assessment showed that prices were still too high.

The Commission reported back to the European Parliament and the Council in the end of 2008 on the need to review existing roaming rules. To prepare this report, the Commission consulted the public up to 2 July 2008.

Based on this assessment and the public consultation EU Commission decided to propose introducing maximum price limits for sending SMS messages while roaming. The European Regulators Group (ERG) suggested a level between 11 and 15 euro cents.

A wholesale price cap on Internet roaming was introduced on 1 July 2009 and a price cap for end users was introduced on 1 July 2012. Customers traveling to another Member State receive an automated message of the charges that apply for data roaming services.

Under new rules as of 1 July 2009, consumers also benefit from per-second billing after 30 seconds for calls made, and per-second billing throughout for calls received to ensure that consumers do not face any 'hidden costs' when they are roaming. This was expected to increase consumers savings by over 20%.

Since 1 July 2010, operators must provide customers with the opportunity to determine in advance how much they want to spend before the service is disabled ("cut-off").

The Commission, together with the national regulatory authorities, monitored the development of the prices. If normal market conditions had been established in the market for roaming calls, the regulation was meant to expire in three years from 2007 (30 June 2010). However, the Commission could also propose to continue to regulate the roaming market, if normal market conditions were not working yet. Under the latest proposal this regulation would be extended to 30 June 2016.

Following an investigation into the costs of the absence of a Single Market in telecoms, the European Commission intends to take further measures, with the objectives including ensuring that the difference between roaming and national prices should approach zero by 2015.2

A public consultation by the European Commission on future roaming regulation took place in December 2010 – February 2011. The Commission suggested the next regulation in a report to the European Parliament, on 6 July 2011.3 The Commission wants4 to extend price ceilings on roaming services both at wholesale and retail (including for mobile Internet) levels. The validity of the new regulation would be extended to 10 years, with retail prices ceiling maintained until July 2016, and wholesale ceilings maintained until 2022 (but with stable prices over 2015–2022). The newest feature would be the introduction of preselection (including from MVNOs) for roaming services, starting July 2014. This scheme, according to Neelie Kroes5 is supposed to allow to reach the stated 2015 objective of a close to zero difference between domestic and roaming prices, even though the report to EU Parliament states, on page 9, that the scheme "will require time to [...] produce effects on the market". In August 2011, the European Regulator, BEREC, criticised the Commission proposal as unable to bring a structural solution, in a report to the EU Parliament.6 In February 2012, the ITRE committee of the European Parliament voted for lower (and longer) retail ceilings, backing a structural solution, for which the technical details should set by the BEREC. Finally, in March 2012, a compromise was agreed between the EU Commission, Parliamnent and Council, with lower retail ceilings than originally proposed by the Commission. The final vote in the EU Parliament took place May 10. BEREC is to organise the technical details (multi IMSI ?) of the structural solution (separation of service providers for domestic and roaming services) by the end of 2012, in order to be implemented on a compulsory basis in the EU in July 2014.

On 3 April 2014, MEPs voted by 534 votes to 25, to end roaming fees within the European Union from 15 December 2015.7

Members

Currently roaming regulation is applied to and within 31 countries: all members of the European Economic Area (28 EU members, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway). The EU countries apply the roaming regulation since 30 August 2007 while the non-EU countries apply the regulation since 1 January 2008.

Switzerland is not included, despite close relations with the EU in several fields. Charges are considerably higher for EU residents roaming in Switzerland, and for Swiss residents in the EU, especially on internet data, which vary, but are often around €3/MB (2012).

Prices

Common limits

In force from 30 Aug 2007 30 Aug 2008 1 Jul 2009 1 Jul 2010 1 Jul 2011 1 Jul 2012 1 Jul 2013 1 Jul 2014 1 Jul 2017
In force until 29 Aug 2008 30 Jun 2009 30 Jun 2010 30 Jun 2011 30 Jun 2012 30 Jun 2013 30 Jun 2014 30 Jun 2017 30 Jun 2022
Service Unit Roaming limits in EEA countries
(all the prices are in euro without VAT)8910
Retail caps (applies to subscribers)
Outgoing calls to any EEA number price of 1 minute 0.49 0.46 0.43 0.39 0.35 0.29 0.24 0.19
billing interval Not regulated per second starting from 31st second
Incoming calls from any number price of 1 minute 0.24 0.22 0.19 0.15 0.11 0.08 0.07 0.05
billing interval Not regulated per second starting from 1st second
Incoming calls redirected to voice mail a 1 price of 1 minute 0.73 0.68 0.62 Free
Outgoing SMS to any EEA number price of 1 message Not regulated 0.11 0.09 0.08 0.06
Incoming SMS from any number price of 1 message Not regulated Free
Data transfer price of 1 Megabyte Not regulated 0.70 0.45 0.20
billing interval Not regulated per 1 KB starting from 1st KB
monthly default cut-off limit Not regulated 50.00
Right to choose different operator for roaming a 211 Not regulated Yes
Default notification SMS with roaming prices Not regulated Yes
Free number to call for detailed roaming prices Not regulated Yes
Free '112' access in roaming Not regulated Yes
Wholesale caps (Operator to Operator)
Outgoing calls to any EEA number price of 1 minute 0.30 0.28 0.26 0.22 0.18 0.14 0.10 0.05
billing interval Not regulated per second starting from 31st second
Inbound calls same as termination of a non-roaming call on the visited network, see Termination rates. a 3
Outgoing SMS to any EEA number price of 1 message Not regulated 0.04 0.03 0.02
Incoming SMS from any number Not regulated Free
Data transfer price of 1 Megabyte Not regulated 1.00 0.80 0.50 0.25 0.15 0.05
billing interval Not regulated per 1 KB starting from 1st KB
Right to use other operators' networks in other Member States at regulated wholesale prices11 Not regulated Yes
Legend Past
Active
Future
  1. ^ When incoming calls are redirected to voice mail, operators can charge for message recording as much as a sum of their tariffs for incoming calls and outgoing calls back to home country. Beginning on 1 July 2010 operators cannot charge their roaming customers for the receipt by them of a roaming voice mail message. Listening to such messages could still be charged as an outgoing call in the future.
  2. ^ Customer would have the option to sign for roaming contract, separate from national mobile services, while keeping the same phone number and SIM card.
  3. ^ The visited network charges the same rate as it would charge for termination of a non-roaming call. This practice was already required by national regulators before the EU roaming regulations were implemented, so it is outside of the scope of this regulation. [1] (page 28)

Exchange rates

For services paid for in currencies other than the euro, the amount in euro is converted to the other currency using the reference rates published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJoEU).

After the adoption of EU regulation 531/201210 the retail exchange rate to be used for the relevant year should be calculated by taking the average of the reference exchange rates published in the OJoEU on 1 March, 1 April and 1 May of that year, with the new exchange rate coming into force on 1 July of that year. The wholesale exchange rate however is taken from only the rate published on 1 May of that year.


Local price limits

Method of calculating

As the VAT rates and currencies vary across the EU and EEA, the European Commission publishes price caps in euro and excluding VAT. So the final prices for each country can be calculated by adding the corresponding VAT rate and converting to the currency of the country (if non-euro).

For countries using the euro For countries using currency other than euro
x = \left(1+\frac{\text{VAT}}{100%}\right) \cdot EC_{\text{rate}} x = \left(1+\frac{\text{VAT}}{100%}\right) \cdot EC_\text{rate} \cdot Ex_\text{rate}
where
EC_{\text{rate}} is European Commission maximum allowed tariff without VAT in euro
{\text{VAT}} is Value Added Tax rate for specified country, given in per cent
Ex_{\text{rate}} is Exchange rate for specified country published by ECB

In order to avoid double taxation, non-taxation or the distortion of competition, an EU member state may, in accordance with Article 9(3)(a) of Council Directive 77/388 ("the Sixth VAT Directive"), include within the scope of its national VAT any telecommunications services used within its territory but billed outside the EU VAT area. When opting to do so, it must also exempt from its national VAT any roaming services supplied by home networks within its territory but used outside the EU VAT area. The inclusion of telecommunications within the scope of Article 9 was requested by the United Kingdom,12 which subsequently enacted the change under Article 19 of the Value Added Tax (Place of Supply of Services) Order 1992. Consequently when an EU member state makes this VAT exemption, roaming on networks in the Åland Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, the Canary Islands, Ceuta, Melilla and French overseas departments is subject to the price caps with no VAT applied, because these countries and territories are within the EEA but outside the EU VAT area.

Rounding

The charge limits for the Eurotariff and the wholesale average charge should be calculated to the maximum number of decimal places permitted by the official exchange rate. This sets the maximum that can be charged in the national currency. Providers may wish in practice to quote charges in whole numbers of currency units, especially at the retail level, although this in practice is not compulsory. In this case, the numbers should be rounded down. Rounding up of these numbers to above the level of the relevant cap is not permitted under any circumstances.1314

References








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