Victory for the consumer as EU votes to end mobile roaming fees

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THE EUROPEAN Parliament voted to end mobile phone roaming fees by 2016 and barred telecoms operators from prioritising some internet traffic over others, moves that will cheer Europe’s consumers and frustrate industry seeking new forms of revenue.

In a session in Brussels, lawmakers backed telecom reform legislation that will phase out roaming fees across the 28-country European Union by December 2015, bolster consumer protections on mobile and broadband contracts and seek to make the sale of mobile licences more uniform across Europe.

The aim of the reform is to foster a so-called ‘single market’ for telecom services across the region, while spurring big operators like France’s Orange and Vodafone to invest more in networks.

“This vote is the EU delivering for citizens,” said Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner for digital affairs.

“This is what the EU is all about – getting rid of barriers to make life easier and less expensive.

“We should know what we are buying, we should not be ripped off, and we should have the opportunity to change our mind.”

The package could still change after getting Parliament’s backing because it must be approved by the Council of the European Union, which includes representative of each member state.

The Council is expected to make a decision in Octo- ber.

Telecom operators are not likely to give up the fight, especially over the parliament’s measures on maintaining “net neutrality”, the principle that all internet traffic should be treated equally, regardless of the source or content.

Operators will be “barred from blocking or slowing down selected services for economic or other reasons”, said a statement from the Parliament, citing the example of telecom groups banning free calling service Skype.

Nor can telecom operators discriminate in handling data on their networks.