* Roaming charges set to end in June 2017
* EU seeking to agree "fair use" policy to prevent abuse
* Customers with unlimited data will face limits abroad
By Julia Fioretti
BRUSSELS, Dec 8 The European Commission has
proposed putting limits on how much consumers with unlimited
data packages can surf the web abroad before they have to pay
extra once roaming fees are abolished.
The European Union has committed to getting rid of roaming
charges within the bloc by June next year but has struggled to
find a way of giving consumers a fair deal without putting
mobile operators under undue financial pressure.
Fearing that packages offering unlimited data could be prone
to abuse, and prompt companies to raise prices at home to recoup
the cost of surcharge-free roaming, the Commission said it had
proposed an "exceptional brake on intensive roaming".
"Without a volume safeguard on roaming, these competitive
packages will be threatened on domestic markets. They could
disappear or become more expensive, or be offered without
roaming. We do not want that," EU Commission Vice-President
Andrus Ansip told a news conference on Thursday.
Member states are expected to vote on the new proposal on
The EU's decade-long drive to abolish roaming charges, often
seen by consumers as excessive compared with the additional
costs of providing the service, has been hampered by big
discrepancies in domestic prices which operators say make
entirely free roaming uneconomical.
The quandary has been compounded by the wholesale charges
operators pay each other to keep their respective customers
connected when abroad.
The EU is now rushing to lower caps on wholesale charges
while agreeing a "fair use" roaming policy to prevent abuse, but
has been finding it hard to strike the right balance.
Eager to shore up support for the EU amid a wave of populist
anti-EU movements, the Commission abruptly withdrew an earlier
proposal to let users roam free for up to 90 days a year after
it was criticised as being unfair to consumers.
Under the new proposal, the amount of free data roaming for
consumers with unlimited or very cheap bundles would be
calculated by dividing the price they pay at home by the
wholesale cap, and then doubling it.
For example, a Swedish citizen paying 20 euros per month at
home for unlimited data, with a wholesale data cap of 10 euros
per gigabyte, would get 4 gigabytes free before charges kick in.
A Commission official said most packages in member states
such as Germany, Spain, Italy and Portugal would not be affected
by the volume limits, given the domestic bundles were less
"It's very, very unlikely that the consumer will go anywhere
near that amount of data consumption," the official said.
(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; editing by David Clarke)