Britons will face higher charges for using their mobile phone usage overseas until 2017, it has been confirmed, after 12 hours of wrangling between European Union (EU) member states finally yielded a deadline for the end of the 'bill-shock' era.
Roaming charges were supposed to be scrapped this year. But to the surprise of consumer bodie, the EU reneged on its plans.
Keen to avoid hefty charges for using your phone overseas? Find out how in our guide to roaming charges: International roaming charges explained.
It’s thought the scheme was derailed by member states whose hard-hit economies are heavily dependent on tourism.
However, the new proposal is for an EU-wide ban on international roaming charges to come into force from June 15th 2017.
The commission also agreed to a universal drop in the price of roaming in all 28 EU nations in the interim.
From April, data will be capped at five euro cents (4p) per megabyte, with calls pegged at a maximum rate of five cents per minute. Texts will fall to two cent per message.
The mooted prices are about a quarter of their current levels.
But before you start to look forward to a time when roaming charges are as dead as disco and you can roam freer than The Wombles, it’s worth remembering just how quick the EU was to perform a volte face on its long-stated aim to be rid of roaming charges this year.
With good reason, uSwitch mobiles don Ernest Doku gave the announcement a cautious welcome.
He said: “We’ve heard this before. Data roaming charges were due to be abolished in the EU at the end of 2015 and the U-turn confused and frustrated people.
“Mid 2017 is a long way off, particularly when a fifth of UK holidaymakers have returned home from an EU trip in the past year to find their bill was, on average, £61 higher than usual - amounting to £573 million collectively.
“Of these, around one in six had to pay upwards of £100 on top of their normal bill.”
Doku added: “Let’s hope there’ll be no more backtracking after Europe’s mobile networks have had their say.
“The ‘safeguards’ to address the recovery of costs by operators will have to be suitably robust to financially protect mobile customers and make sure bills don’t rise.”
The EU also announced fresh rules enshrining net neutrality – the principle that all web traffic is treated equally by broadband providers.
According to the commission, these will protect the "right of every European to access Internet content, without discrimination".