The National Council, Switzerland’s parliament, rejected a motion to force Swiss mobile phone operators to remove EU roaming charges. 99 voted against, 78 for and 14 abstained, according to the newspaper 20 Minutes.
In 2017, the European Union (EU) forced EU operators to stop charging their customers extra for calls made outside their home country but within the EU. This left Swiss mobile phone users among the few still paying extra for calls in neighbouring countries.
These roaming charges are borne mainly by customers with low cost pay-as-you-go plans. Most Swiss mobile phone users on subscriptions have some free roaming included in their monthly package.
Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter, the parliamentarian who put the motion forward, argued that it is only logical for the residents of a nation in the centre of Europe to have open unrestricted access to telecommunications in Europe in the digital era. In addition, she argued that tourists and entrepreneurs might hesitate to come to Switzerland and that this could have a negative economic impact.
Those against the plan argued that decisions on roaming should be left to operators and the market. In addition, they explained that the Swiss government cannot unilaterally create laws that will force changes abroad. Roaming charges are to some extent a reflection of the deals struck between Swiss and foreign operators on using each other’s networks.
Using existing international agreements, Switzerland’s Federal Council does have the power to cap roaming charges if they are excessive. It could also force operators to charge calls by the second and data in increments of 10 kilo-octets or force operators to allow customers the possibility of accessing the roaming offers of competing operators.