German Federal Network Agency BNetzA has prohibited certain conditions of Vodafone Deutschland’s zero-rating mobile tariff option Vodafone Pass.
“Vodafone Pass can still be booked, but adjustments are required for use in the EU. We make sure that Vodafone Pass can be used like at home when travelling,” BNetzA President Jochen Homann said in Bonn.
The use of Vodafone Pass is currently only unlimited in Germany. Since June 2017, however, mobile operators have to offer roaming services in other EU countries on the same terms as in Germany. Vodafone must therefore also open the Vodafone Pass add-on option for use in other European countries, demands BNetzA. Consumers should be able to use Vodafone Pass in other EU countries just as they would at home without using up their national data allowance for roaming.
Roaming providers may limit the use of data in other EU countries as part of a fair use policy. Vodafone reserves the right to restrict the roaming volume for use in other EU countries to 5GB per Vodafone Pass. Although such a restriction is allowed in principle, BNetzA is of the opinion that the volume is insufficient. The authority has therefore prohibited the restriction to 5GB.
Vodafone has received a corresponding prohibition order from BNetzA, a Vodafone spokesman confirmed to Broadband TV News. “We are currently considering legal action against this order.”
Vodafone Pass offers customers a flat-rate for mobile use of various music, video, chat and social media apps. “The use of this service abroad causes unpredictable costs which the foreign mobile network operator would charge Vodafone. An EU-wide use of Vodafone Pass would not be economically viable,” said the Vodafone spokesman, explaining the company’s opposition to the regulator’s demand.
In a comparable case, BNetzA has requested Deutsche Telekom to open its zero-rating tariff option StreamOn for use in other EU countries. Telekom filed an appeal against this order and took legal action at the Cologne Administrative Court.
Vodafone Pass is a zero-rating product in which the data volume consumed by the use of selected partner services is not deducted from the mobile network customer’s data allowance. These services can include audio, video, chat services and social networks.
BNetzA has been investigating since October 2017 whether Vodafone Pass violates the roaming, net neutrality and transparency regulations. The mobile network operator launched the service on October 26, 2017 following Deutsche Telekom, which has been offering its zero-rating tariff option StreamOn since April 19, 2017. Consumer protectors oppose zero-rating services, arguing that they would violate net neutrality.