European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker yesterday ordered officials to draw up new plans for the EU’s landmark free mobile phone roaming policy after it ran into fierce criticism.
The commission announced the original “free roaming” plans with huge fanfare early last year, but when it unveiled the details this week, consumer groups were outraged by a limit to just 90 days of free roaming per year.
“In light of the initial feedback received, president Juncker has instructed the services to withdraw that text and to work on a new proposal,” a commission statement said.
“As we have promised, roaming charges will disappear. Nothing changes there,” it said, downplaying the importance of the apparent U-turn on one of the commission’s most high-profile priorities.
“The draft in question was about the modalities, and it was only a draft by the services,” it said.
Consumer groups had assumed the commission’s pledge to end mobile roaming charges — charges when people use their phone outside their home country — meant exactly that, without conditions or caveats.
As a result, they responded angrily to the 90-day “fair use” limit, charging that Brussels had caved in to the powerful telecom companies for whom roaming charges have long been a lucrative source of extra income.
Commission spokesman Alexander Winterstein yesterday said that the decision was perfectly routine, that Juncker had not been fully aware of all the details and when he had seen them and the reaction, had asked officials to try again.
The overall roaming plan was a “major success” and the review concerned the “modalities” only, not the objective, he said.
“It was simply not good enough for our president [Juncker], therefore he instructed us to work harder, try harder and come back with something better,” Winterstein told a news briefing.
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