The UK government has thrown its weight behind the European Commission’s (EC) move to end roaming fees.
In a document released by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the government said it fully endorsed the plans from Europe and would work with relevant industry organisations in the coming years to make it a reality.
“We will work with Ofcom and the industry to develop a UK government position for ongoing negotiations in the EU that will help us achieve the goal of eliminating roaming charges within the EU by 2016,” it said.
“This will need to be accompanied by appropriate safeguards to prevent abuse and ensure that UK mobile operators are encouraged to continue to invest in their networks.”
The decision was welcomed by the EC, with spokesman Ryan Heath telling V3 that the UK's support underlined the benefits a single market system can provide.
“David Cameron told the Commons that this is the sort of EU he can believe in – making people's lives easier, not more difficult. We agree, and the UK's support will be important in making all the other EU countries see the value of these telecoms reforms," he said.
"This is a case of where the UK can really shape how the EU works, and where UK consumers and companies can gain a real benefit by being part of the EU system."
As well as backing roaming the government also said it had reached agreements with both mobile operators and internet service providers to try and stop unexpected contract price rises and huge bills if their phone is stolen.
EE, Three, Virgin Media, and Vodafone have all agreed to new guidelines that will see a ‘liability cap’ come into force in order to limit the amount a customer would have to pay, regardless of what has been run-up before it was reported stolen.
“We will need to establish what reasonable conditions should apply to such a liability cap,” the government said. It added that operators have agreed to help consider a way to render stolen phones unusable, to reduce the risk to users from thieves.
“In the medium term we want to work with the mobile operators and others in the telecoms industry on measures that might be developed to combat unauthorised use of lost and stolen phones,” it said.
Finally, Three, BT, EE, Sky, TalkTalk, Virgin Media and Vodafone have also agreed to adhere to recent Ofcom guidance on ways to make phone and broadband contracts clearer, so customers are not hit by unexpected price rises.
The only major telecoms firm missing from the list was O2. The firm told V3 that it felt more clarity was needed on some of the guidance from Ofcom before it could sign up to the agreement.
“One area of the government’s announcement relates to Ofcom’s recently published guidance on ‘price rises in fixed-term contracts’,” the firm said. “We need clarity on what the guidance means for us and our customers before we can sign up to all the commitments referred to by government and we have been unable to obtain such clarity from the government or Ofcom at the time of this publication.”
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