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EU eliminates roaming charges for cell phone users

The decision to do away with extra cell phone fees has come after years of tough negotiations by different member states. However, some argue the agreement doesn't solve the problem of unfair charges.

The European Parliament approved a law on Tuesday that will allow cell phone users to text or make calls across the bloc at no extra charge. The decision is a victory for those who advocated for the elimination of the extra fees - known as roaming charges - but it has also raised questions about possible loopholes in the new rule.

Currently, telecommunications companies charge slightly extra if someone within the EU texts or makes a phone call outside the country where the service contract was signed. Starting on June 15, 2017, however, such fees will be eradicated.

As an initial step, charges will be capped from April 30 of next year: They will not exceed .05 euros (.06 cents) per minute for each call made and .02 euros per text message.

Many European lawmakers have praised the deal, which came only after years of negotiations.

Loopholes still exist

Some, however, have pointed out that the law still leaves the door open for telecommunications companies to charge extra. In fact, under the law, companies are still allowed to offer plans with roaming fee charges, as long as they offer at least one plan that has no such charges.

Others, such as the European consumer advocacy organization BEUC, called the end of roaming fees "a distant promise." The organization criticized the interim agreement to cut fees starting in April and said the plan to erase the charges by June 2017 was unrealistic.

"The announced end of roaming by mid-2017 depends on a reform of the roaming wholesale market...an endeavor unlikely to be finalized in time," the organization said in a statement on its website.

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blc/jil (dpa, AFP)

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