European Carriers Can Back Out of Unlimited Roaming

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European cell phone plans will include roaming access throughout the European Union at no additional charge starting next summer, but that roaming access won't be unlimited.

Carriers will have the option to charge certain subscribers a roaming fee if they primarily use their phones abroad under new rules proposed by the European Commission today.

"Roaming is for travellers," the Commission said in a statement. The rules would allow operators to apply small surcharges to customers who have insignificant domestic use compared to roaming use, use multiple SIM cards from their home country while abroad, or only use a SIM card for traveling.

The Commission proposed maximum roaming rates of four euro cents per minute for voice calls, one euro cent per text message, and 0.0085 euro cents per MB of data. Those prices are less than what European telcos are allowed to charge for roaming today: 0.05 euros per minute on calls, 0.02 euros per SMS, and 0.05 euros per megabyte of data used.

Previously, the Commission was considering imposing a 90-day time limit on free roaming access. Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker abruptly ordered that proposal to be redrafted two weeks ago, according to Reuters.

Andrus Ansip, the Commission's vice president for the digital single market, acknowledged that the revised rules are a concession to consumer demands. "Together we need to ensure low prices for users all across Europe, to make full use of new mobile services," he said in a statement. "European consumers would not accept it otherwise."

The rules are set to go into effect on June 15, 2017. Telecommunications regulators in each EU country will have a chance to provide comment before the Commission makes them law.

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