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EU to end roaming charges by 2017

The European Union wants to force telecom companies to get rid of roaming charges on mobile devices, it was announced Tuesday morning. A new contract will have to be ratified by all 28 member states.

The new deal, hashed out in Latvia over 12 hours between EU representatives, would see roaming charges dropped by June 2017.

The negotiations also resulted in another deal that would require all Internet traffic users to be treated equally. This principle, known as net neutrality, means service providers cannot give paying customers better service than less lucrative traffic.

But there are limitations to the deals, because there would still be scope for telecoms companies to charge extra fees for customers who regularly use their phones in foreign countries.

On net neutrality, meanwhile, negotiators also carved out some exceptions, such as in case of a cyberattack or for automated communications from emergency care services.

Both agreements were struck between Latvia, which holds the current presidency of the EU, and members of the EU Parliament, but they must still be approved by member countries in the next six months.

Currently, communications companies tend to charge a few extra cents per phone call or text message when customers use their phone in a country other than the one where they signed the service contract. The EU has been fighting for years to whittle down those charges, which most customers find grating.

bk/uhe (dpa, Reuters)

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