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Roaming on public mobile telephone networks

This Regulation introduces a common mechanism to cut the cost of using mobile telephones. It is designed to reduce the cost of using mobile phones abroad (“international roaming” * rates) by introducing a Eurotariff. As they move around within the European Union (EU), the people of Europe will benefit from mobile services (calls, SMS and mobile Internet) at a more affordable and transparent price.

ACT

Regulation (EC) No 717/2007 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 27 June 2007 on roaming on public mobile communication networks within the Community and amending Directive 2002/21/EC.

SUMMARY

In the effort to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market, the European Commission supports a significant reduction in the price consumers pay to make international roaming calls, SMS * and data roaming services. Until now, the structure of the market and the cross-border nature of the services prevented national regulatory authorities from solving the problem of high charges and the sector from regulating itself in a manner beneficial for consumers.

Introduction of a price cap system

After conducting a two-phase public consultation on international roaming, the European Commission chose the “European Home Market Approach”: when subscribers place calls or send an SMS using their mobile phones, they must enjoy similar conditions as in their home country no matter where they are in the EU.

This meant applying identical preventive rate limits throughout the Community for using mobile phones in another Member State, by introducing a mechanism to set maximum per-minute rates that operators may charge one another, with a cap on retail prices established on this basis.

The price cap system is applied by means of the Eurotariff *, which places limits on the rates charged by mobile telephone operators for calls made or received in another Member State.

Operators thus have a single, coherent regulatory framework based on objective criteria. The underlying idea is for retail charges to be closer to the costs associated with providing the service, whilst allowing operators the freedom to compete by differentiating their services. For consumers, the Eurotariff does not entail any associated subscription or other fixed charge, and may be combined with any retail tariff.

The method implemented consists of a combination of wholesale * and retail * price regulation.

  • wholesale charges: the levels of the maximum average wholesale charges are EUR 0.28 and EUR 0.26 since 30 August 2008 and 1 July 2009. It decreased to EUR 0.22 and EUR 0.18 from 1 July 2010 and from 1 July 2011.Wholesale charges also apply to regulated roaming SMS messages. From 1 July 2009, the maximum average wholesale charge cannot exceed EUR 0.04 per SMS.There is also a maximum for the wholesale charge on data roaming services of EUR 1 per sent megabyte. This charge will decrease to EUR 0.80 and EUR 0.50 per megabyte from 1 July 2010 and 1 July 2011 respectively.
  • retail charges: to ensure that the profit generated by the capping of wholesale charges is passed on to consumers, the Regulation also applies a cap for retail charges. The price ceiling for calls made is EUR 0.46 to EUR 0.43 and EUR 0.22 to EUR 0.19 for calls received as from 30 August 2008 and 1 July 2009. It will decrease to EUR 0.39 and EUR 0.35 for calls made and to EUR 0.15 and EUR 0.11 for calls received as from 1 July 2010 and 1 July 2011. Furthermore, operators must apply charges to the second after the first 30 seconds of the call. The retail price of a Eurotariff SMS for a regulated roaming SMS cannot exceed EUR 0.11 from 1 July 2009.

Desire for transparency

Each provider shall automatically, free of charge and without undue delay (by means of an automatic message service) send the customer personalised pricing information on the roaming charges when s/he enters another Member State.

The personalised pricing information shall include the maximum price for making a call, receiving a call, sending an SMS and mobile Internet access during the stay in the other Member State.

Providers must ensure that roaming customers are kept informed of prices applicable to the use of data roaming services so that they can manage their spending better. To this end, from 1 March 2010, consumers will have the option to set a disconnection limit with their operator for data roaming services; once the bill has reached the set limit, the operator will disconnect the data roaming service if the customer does not request the service to be continued. From 1 July 2010 a disconnection limit of EUR 50 will automatically be applied to all customers who have not set a specific limit with their operators.

Implementation and compliance with conditions

The national regulatory authorities, meeting within the European Regulators Group and in collaboration with the Commission, are responsible for enforcing the relevant provisions and for monitoring developments in wholesale and retail charges. The Member States themselves determine the system of sanctions to be applied in the event of an infringement of the Regulation.

Background

In recent years, the telecommunications sector has expanded rapidly, thanks in part to measures at European level to encourage investment. All of the directives adopted in 2002 and their recently adopted amendments have specifically enabled a regulatory framework for electronic communications services to be established. However, the problem of extremely high international roaming charges had not been resolved. It affects all citizens travelling abroad within the EU (for business or personal reasons). These excessive retail prices result both from high wholesale charges levied by the foreign host network operator and, in many cases, from high retail mark-ups charged by the customer's own network operator. The Regulation on roaming aims to resolve the problems detailed above.

Key terms used in the act
  • “International roaming” means the use of a mobile telephone or other device by a roaming customer to make or receive calls, while outside the Member State in which the customer’s home network is located, by means of arrangements between the operator of the home network and the operator of the visited network.
  • “Eurotariff” means a per-minute roaming charge, for which the Regulation establishes a price ceiling it must not exceed for making and receiving calls abroad, and which is available to all consumers in the European Union.
  • Euro-SMS-price: a roaming price of EUR 0.11 excluding VAT per SMS sent from abroad.
  • "Wholesale charge" means the charge billed by the foreign operator to the home provider of a person who makes or receives calls in the foreign country.
  • "Retail charge" means the charge billed by the home provider of a person who uses his or her mobile telephone on a foreign network. The amount of the charge depends on the wholesale price, plus the cost of the service provided.
  • SMS: a Short Message Service text message.

REFERENCES

ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal

Regulation (EC) No 717/2007

30.6.2007

30.8.2007

OJ L 171 of 29.6.2007

Amending actEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StateOfficial Journal

Regulation (EC) No 544/2009

2.7.2009

-

OJ L 167 of 29.6.2009

RELATED ACTS

Directive 2002/21/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 March 2002 on a common regulatory framework for electronic communications networks and services ("Framework Directive") [Official Journal L 108 of 24.04.2002].

Last updated: 22.12.2009
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