The European Union’s dream of living roaming free continues to unravel as new information surfaces after New Europe’s investigation into service providers receiving exemptions from Roam Like at Home. Companies that can prove to their national regulator that they are unable to recoup “actual or projected costs” of providing roaming services are provided exemptions from Roam Like at Home and are able to apply a surcharge for any roaming activities. Companies have also found a way to get around the Regulation by offering domestic-only packages that do not any roaming capabilities.
Four more countries have responded to New Europe that they have received applications for exemptions, bringing the total number to ten. Several other counties have revealed that domestic-only plans will be offered within the European Union.
Finland has received four applications for Roam Like at Home exemptions. Companies DNA, Elisa, Telia are all mobile network operators and MoiMobiili is a mobile virtual network provider. Finland’s national communications regulator, Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority, disclosed that “we will most likely issue our formal decisions on June 15” leaving little time for customers to prepare for impending surcharges.
The regulating authority for the Slovak Republic, the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of the Slovak Republic, received at least one application on May 15th, leaving a deadline of June 15th for a decision on the case, leaving customers in the dark on if they will indeed face roaming surcharges.
An official in the Czech Telecommunication Office (CTU) told New Europe that “CTU is currently analyzing several applications from Czech mobile virtual operators.” They added that “first final decisions (authorizing or refusing surcharges) should be delivered to these applicants within the next weeks (not before 15th June 2017).”
Customers in these countries are facing the same uncertainty of those in Austria, where the national regulator, Rundfunk und Telekom Regulierungs, told New Europe that “Referring to your inquiry if roaming surcharges will be charged after 15th June, we would like to inform you that we cannot say with certainty that no surcharges [sic] will be charged after this date.” Those in Denmark are also unsure about the status of their roaming when an official from the Danish Energy Authority, told New Europe the agency has received an application for an exemption, but the application was incomplete and it is unknown if the company will reapply. The official added domestic-only plans will be offered in Denmark. While the official was unable to share the names of companies that have a domestic-only plan, they added that “most Danish companies have at least one domestic only tariff plan.”
These offers are similar to those in Greece, where plans will only support services within the country of origin.
Norway’s regulating authority, Norwegian Communications Authority, stated that while they have not received any applications for exemptions “Norway-only offers exist for some dedicated mobile broadband packages (in sale) and some existing mobile packages (not mobile packages in sale).” They clarified that “roaming charges will not apply to these packages since they cannot be used while travelling abroad at all.”
The Czech Republic informed New Europe that “implementation of Roam Like at Home principles varies in the Czech Republic among operators and therefore some of them could offer national tariffs without roaming from 15th June 2017.” They offered the example of “one operator is planning to provide data services for data-only SIM cards only in the Czech Republic and not in roaming.”
New Europe also reached out to mobile providers Orange, Three, Vodafone, and Elisa for comment on their roaming policies after the June 15th implementation of Roam Like at Home and whether or not the companies have applied for exemptions from Roam Like at Home. Of the four, only Three and Vodafone have responded at the time of publication.
Three responded to New Europe’s inquiry of if the company has applied for an exemption from Roam Like at Home in any country by stating “that unlike any other network we already have roaming abroad at no extra cost across the EU as introduced last summer.” Three also stated that “when the regulations come into place we will adapt this to comply with in-country calls etc. as well.” They added that “our ambition is and always has been to abolish roaming charges.”
Vodafone replied to New Europe with “Vodafone has already implemented Roam Like at Home offers in our European markets and we will be compliant with EU roaming regulations when they commence on 15 June 2017.” However, Vodafone confirmed that they will be offering domestic plans to customers.
With Roam Like at Home in jeopardy through numerous exemptions from national regulating authorities and companies offering domestic-only plans that sidestep the spirit of the regulation, one can only hope that the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) will help customers receive the free-roaming European Union that they’ve been promised.
BEREC assists the European Commission and the national regulatory authorities in implementing the European Union’s regulatory framework for electronic communications. In their 2018-2020 strategy, they outlined goals to “work to improve the consistent implementation of regulatory principles” as well as “make available more information at all levels of work and in particular for important topics that impact customers (net neutrality, roaming).”
According to BEREC, these domestic-only plans may be used only in the origin country. These plans must not include any roaming capabilities nor offer options for roaming add-ons. If domestic-only plans do offer roaming capabilities or add-ons they will be subject to Roam Like at Home regulations.
With more and more companies finding ways out of the Regulation with exemptions and domestic-only plans, its not looking like roaming abroad will be like home after all.