The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) has published its new version of BEREC Guidelines on Regulation (EU) No. 531/2012 as amended by Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 on retail roaming, in order to clarify how it will apply from 15 June 2017. In fact, according to the Regulation’s “roam like home” formula, roaming providers will no longer be able to apply surcharges for roaming to customers, who will be allowed to pay the same retail price at home for roaming in any Member State of the EU.
The changes in this update of the former BEREC Guidelines focus in particular on the implementation of the transitional regime, where operators from 30 April 2016 until 14 June 2017 are only allowed to charge the domestic price plus a surcharge that shall not exceed the maximum wholesale charges for intra-EU roaming services. As a consequence, some big telcos that are prevented from over charging after the entry into force of the Regulation 513/2012 as well as in the meantime, are already raising prices of abroad packages (such as in US) to balance the close cost reduction for Internet, messages and calls within the EU.
Nevertheless, the Regulation allows for some exceptions. For example, rules on the applications of a “Fair-use policy” (FUP) developed by the European Commission (CIR), detail the conditions under which the operator may apply a use limit to the consumption of roaming services at the domestic price in order to prevent abusive or anomalous usage of retail roaming services by roaming customers, such as the use of roaming services for purposes other than periodic travel (Article 6 b (1) Roaming Regulation), with customer required to prove stable links (e.g. study and employment relationships) in the roaming destination in order to avoid extra charges for exceeding the ‘fair use’ (Recitals 10 and 11 CIR, Article 3 CIR).
But the exceptions are not the only escape from the Regulation. Those who thought they would have been free from roaming costs soon, may have to think again, since roaming providers will also be able to apply to their national regulators for a 1 year derogation to the rules while they adjust their business model, provided that they can show evidence that they are operating at a loss according to the new “roam like home” formula. The national regulator, AGCOM in the case of Italy, will evaluate the conditions in order to grant the derogation, based on a model developed by Berec to determine sustainable roaming margin (the amount remaining after the costs of providing regulated retail roaming services are deducted from the revenues from providing such services).
Furthermore, the derogation, that we may expect several operators will take advantage of, will not put the word “end” on the issue. After 12 months from its grant, in fact, the operator may apply again to further extend the period.