The European Parliament has endorsed a sweeping package of EU telecommunications reforms, including a much-awaited measure to end roaming charges for cross-border mobile phone use.
A plenary sitting of parliament in Brussels on Thursday voted to ban mobile phone surcharges that hit users as they cross national borders in the European Union – a ban to take effect by December 2015.
If enacted, the legislation would require mobile phone companies to offer “roam like at home” packages to cover the whole of the EU, or allow customers to subscribe to separate service providers without changing their original SIM card.
The vote was welcomed by EU Commissioner for the digital agenda Neelie Kroes, who has been fighting for the reforms in a bid to dismantle roadblocks lying in the way of a common telecommunications market.
“This is what the EU is all about – getting rid of barriers to make life easier and less expensive,” Kroes said.
The legislation, which covers both phone calls and data transmission, now needs the approval of the European Council, representing the EU’s 28 member states, before returning to parliament after the European elections in late May.
Commission officials said they were confident the legislation could be enacted by October.
Europe’s telecommunications industry reacted angrily to the vote, claiming it was a “step in the wrong direction” and one which would harm the EU’s business competitiveness.
Luigi Gambardella, chairman of telecommunications operators group ETNO, said the vote risked “derailing the original objectives” of the EU’s ambitious digital reform project and could undermine job creation.
In particular, ETNO objected to another part of the legislative reforms requiring that internet service providers (ISPs) grant all services available on the net equal access – an idea known as “net neutrality”.