It’s been called a victory for the European Union – a sign that Brussels can protect its citizens from exploitation by telecommunications companies.
After all, the world needed multinational legislation to counter the power of multinational corporations. But lobby observers say that those corporations, particularly from Germany and Spain, have worked to water down the new rules.
A decade of compromises, delays, negotiations and re-negotiations will finally end on June 15, when mobile roaming charges will be abolished across the bloc.
That means that EU-based phone users will pay the same for calls, texts, using the internet and downloads when they travel to another EU country as when they are at home.
It’s supposed to be a new dawn for consumer rights. Berlin’s Tagesspiegel newspaper, for instance, was effusive on Tuesday, calling the new deal a “triumph for the EU, not only over the interests of mobile phone companies.
The decision shows that Europe can change the everyday lives of people for the better. Five hundred million consumers will profit.” Brüssel Europäisches Parlament Abstimmung
‘Roam like at home?’
But there are holes in this new “roam like at home” world. For one thing, telecommunications operators are still allowed to set caps on high-speed flat-rate internet use abroad.
For another, different networks are allowed to keep their different rules on which territories belong to the EU – while some include Switzerland, the British Channel Islands, Monaco, Andorra and San Marino, for example, others don’t – which means travelers to those places have to check which network their phone picks up.
And, as Susanne Blohm of Germany’s major consumer protection organization Verbraucherzentrale explained, the new rules are riddled with unnecessary complexities.
“In principle, this June 15 [legislation] is a very, very big success,” she told DW. “But one big point of criticism is that international calls aren’t affected by the new regulations. I can go to Spain on holiday with my German tariff and call Germany for the same price. But if I’m in Germany and want to call abroad it could be more expensive.
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