So, on Sunday, July 1, media all over Europe told us that making calls, surfing the web or checking e-mails while on holiday has once again become cheaper, thanks to the newest EU roaming regulation. Accordingly, prices for using mobiles phones abroad have been lowered to 29ct/min for calls and 70ct/MB for internet access in July 2012 and will keep going down to 19ct/min for calls and 20ct/MB for internet access by 2014. In addition, users will be allowed to choose a different operator for roaming which should bring about more competition. We have seen that most operators are already starting to offer roaming packages for travellers in reaction to the new law.
A success for citizens
For us, the citizen-led campaign “Europeans for Fair Roaming” (FairRoaming.org), this is the success of our work. We campaigned for further lowering of roaming charges and managed to unite 20 associations, 14 Members of the European Parliament and 150000 people behind this goal. Thanks to those efforts, FairRoaming.org managed to halve the prices for internet roaming, compared to the original EU proposals. Just like the new European Citizens’ Initiatives or the campaigns against ACTA, this shows a trend of growing influence of citizens on European politics.
Over the last two years, we managed to show European politicians that mobile phone users demand an end to unfair roaming prices. And the EU listened to most of our concerns. The EU Commission originally proposed prices of 50ct per MB in 2014. Together with the European Parliament, we managed to get them down to 20ct per MB! This shows that determined citizens can have a real influence on European politics.
But does this mean “Mission accomplished” for us?
Well, in fact, we are not sure. There are still many uncertainties and gaps that need to be filled: It was our goal (and the stated goal of the Commission) to bring prices down to the same level as domestic. Wether or not the new legislation will deliver on this goal will only be clear two years from now. Only in 2014 will there be a competitive market for roaming services, allowing you as a consumer to choose a different operator for roaming services. While we hope that this will lead to massive price reductions, this is far from clear. This now also depends on how this will work in detail. We hope that this will be done in a consumer-friendly way.
Furthermore, the EU roaming regulation only applies when you use your mobile phone in another EU country. But once you leave the EU, you still have to pay exorbitant prices. There have been proposals to extend the European roaming rules to third countries by way of an international treaty. We call on the EU to seriously explore this idea.
Lastly, when you stay at home and call to another EU state (basically, just any normal international call), the price caps of the regulation also do not apply. This leads to prices that are many times higher than those for domestic calls (and even roaming calls). It is absurd that currently, it is cheaper to call to another EU state when you are travelling than when you are at home. This is a hindrance to the internal market and should be in the focus of the EU next.
So, dear EU, there is still a lot to do…