Roaming regulation must continue

When travelling to other EU or ETA countries, European residents can enjoy mobile communication services either for the same price as at home or with a small surcharge. The current roaming rules came into effect in 2017, and the European Commission has now published its proposal for a new Roaming Regulation.

FiCom supports the continuation of regulatory activities related to roaming in the form of an EU regulation. The regulations are still extremely complex in parts, however, which causes ambiguity in interpretations for companies and difficulties for consumers in understanding how different services differ from each other in practice. Therefore, we recommend that the regulation be clarified and simplified in further processing.

The most crucial aspect is to continue wholesale price regulation and the fair use policy (FUP). The sustainability mechanism should also be preserved.

Maximum wholesale roaming charges should be reduced significantly more than what is proposed, and the time scale should be faster and have a continuous, e.g. annual, basis. According to the current proposal, wholesale charges would stop going down at the beginning of 2025, although regulations would still be in effect for a set period of ten years. Data use is growing significantly all the time, however, so the proposal must be modified as concerns wholesale pricing. The proposed revision periods for the maximum charge regulation are insufficient. Lowering maximum wholesale charges increases competition and directly benefits consumers.

The fair use policy should be simplified, because it is too intricate for both consumers and companies. The factor (x2) used in the regulation formula should be removed and the calculation mechanism be connected to wholesale pricing. Prepaid (pay-as-you-go) subscriptions do not have a similar factor, which makes the regulation inconsistent. Therefore, it would be prudent to remove the factor. This change would significantly simplify the regulation. There should also be a cap on what is considered fair use, because the regulation on maximum wholesale roaming charges has led to limitless subscriptions with really large data transfer packages.

Roaming regulations apply specifically to communications between individuals during temporary stays abroad. Permanent roaming use, related especially to M2M services, should not be included in this regulation. It should be permitted on a contractual basis, which would allow operators to set terms flexibly.

The new service quality and speed requirements of the Commission’s proposal are understandable and fit for purpose. The objective is to give users access to corresponding services to those they enjoy domestically, by overseas operators. According to the proposal, the quality requirements must only be met where it is technologically possible. It is crucial that the domestic operator will not be subject to any liability or sanction related to the quality of services provided abroad.

The current regulation will expire at the end of June 2022, so the new regulation should come into effect in July 2022 and be valid for ten years.

Marko Lahtinen, Legal Affairs Manager, FiCom