EC proposes caps for mobile roaming

The European Commission has proposed capping both wholesale and retail charges applied by mobile operators for roaming calls within Europe.

The proposals come after high-profile announcements from the EC over its dissatisfaction with the high tariffs being imposed, it believes, unfairly and unjustifiably on those travelling within Europe.

The price cuts would be made so as to ensure that network operators can recoup the cost of making the connections to other networks and carrying roaming traffic, but will limit the markup on wholesale services that the operators can charge at retail to 30 per cent, in line with fixed line services.

Telcos will also be obliged to clearly inform their subscribers of applicable roaming charges.

The campaign began late last year when the EC set up a website listing the tariffs so that the public could clearly see how much more they were being charged.

In February, it warned telcos that unless things changed, it would draw up regulations to force them to cut charges.

The industry response? Well in March, the EC’s roaming charge website showed that one operator had even increased charges.

In June seven European players agreed to cut their wholesale charges, but there were notable absentees, among them Vodafone.

What the Commission is tabling today however would slash roaming charges by 70 per cent and could, if approved by the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament, come into effect as early as the summer of next year.

‘We are tackling today one of the last borders within Europe’s internal market’, said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner responsible for information society and media. ‘For years, mobile roaming charges have remained at unjustifiably high levels, in spite of repeated warnings to the industry. This is why Europe needs to act now. I am convinced that reducing roaming charges will not only be beneficial for citizens travelling within the EU, but will also enhance the competitiveness of Europe’s industry. The EU regulation we propose today will transform mobile roaming from being a nuisance for consumers into an attractive service that will encourage both citizens and businesses to profit even more from enhanced mobility within the European Union.’

She said that as well as providing fairer call costs to consumers, the real beneficiaries would be Europe’s wealth of small businesses. Currently business calls make up around 80 per cent of roaming calls, and can become a significant cost to smaller companies.

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