EU launches new bid to prevent abuse after roaming fees end in 2017

Telecommunication companies should be in charge of preventing abuse once the European Union does away with mobile roaming fees next year, the bloc's executive proposed Wednesday, following an uproar over an earlier attempt to curb misuse.

The EU has worked for years to curb the unpopular roaming charges: fees that mobile companies can charge customers for using their device when they travel within the bloc. But the quest has taken on more urgency amid growing disillusionment with EU institutions.

There are concerns that people may try to take advantage of the vastly different mobile prices between EU countries once they no longer have to pay roaming fees in mid-2017.

Telecommunication prices in Latvia are for instance 6.5 times cheaper than in Ireland, EU Digital Economy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said Wednesday, predicting that some could try to permanently use Latvian SIM cards in Ireland to pay less for their mobile use.

"The Latvian phone company would then have to pay higher prices on the Irish wholesale market than what it is earning from the consumer. It would be bankrupt within a few days," Oettinger said.

To avoid such situations, the European Commission initially proposed that roaming fees be allowed when people use their phone abroad for more than 90 days a year. But it was forced to withdraw the idea after critics slammed it for falling short on the promise to end roaming.

Its new proposal instead would allow telecom providers to check consumers' usage patterns to look for abuse. This can be done with automated procedures, rather than "a controller standing behind every smartphone," Oettinger said.

Last update: Wed, 21/09/2016 - 16:03


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