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IP/05/1217

Brussels, 4 October 2005

Commission launches consumer website on the costs of mobile roaming in Europe

The European Commission today launched a new website which aims to help consumers get a better deal when using their mobile phones abroad. For this purpose, the website makes public roaming tariffs from the operators in all 25 EU Member States. The launch of this site was signalled in July when Commissioner Viviane Reding highlighted the high cost of using mobile phones abroad and the need to ensure greater transparency of these charges. By means of tables of sample tariffs and direct links to EU mobile operators, the website intends to give EU consumers a concrete idea of the level of tariffs they are likely to face when going on holiday as well as guidance and tips on how to manage their international roaming bills. Since the announcement of the website before this summer, there are signs that competition is starting to develop, in particular with some operators offering special holiday and other tariff packages.

“Only a well-informed consumer is a well-armed consumer,” said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. “At a time when we have seen in Europe so much progress in other telecommunications services, the cost of using your mobile phone abroad is hard to believe. This is why the Commission aims, with this new website presented today, to give the consumer the knowledge to make an informed choice, to enhance competition in the industry and to encourage fairer and clearer pricing.”

The Commission’s new website launched today provides consumers with sample tariffs to a variety of destinations from all mobile network operators in all 25 EU Member States. It also aims to make it easy for the consumer to find out more details by providing direct links to the roaming tariff web-pages of all EU operators and other useful contacts for further information. This includes advice on how to get the best deal and contact points in case of difficulties or complaints.

The Commission’s new consumer website does not attempt to list the many thousands of tariffs in the EU but rather provides, in an easy to use manner, a large sample of tariffs that will give the consumer a clear understanding as to the tariffs they are likely to face when travelling abroad in Europe. The website presents the status of roaming prices of September 2005 and will be updated every six months.

This Commission initiative is complemented by the work of the 25 national telecom regulators. National telecom regulators cooperate closely with the Commission services on the matter of roaming prices and have recently announced additional action on tariff transparency for international roaming under the auspices of the European Regulators Group (ERG), which is tasked with ensuring consistency of regulation across Europe. Commissioner Reding therefore presented today the new Commission website jointly with Jørgen Abild Andersen, the Head of the Danish telecom regulator and current Chairman of the ERG.

The Commission expects the combined effect of these European and national measures to encourage operators to offer better and fairer prices to their customers.

Background:

“International roaming” is the ability of mobile phone subscribers to use their phones whilst travelling abroad. Users can make and receive calls using the same number as they do at home. For this, a mobile network operator needs to conclude international roaming agreements with operators in other countries.

The Commission launched a wide antitrust sector inquiry in 2000 into the level of retail and wholesale roaming prices in Europe because of concerns that they were excessive. The inquiry led to the opening of separate antitrust proceedings under EC Treaty rules on abuse of monopoly power (Article 82) against mobile operators in Germany and in the UK for excessive wholesale international roaming tariffs. Up to now, these proceedings have involved the issuing of a number of Statement of Objections (see IP/04/994 and IP/05/161) and are still on-going. In addition, since 2004 the Commission has been looking at the two strategic alliances created to improve international roaming services (“Starmap” and “Freemove”) to ensure that that they are compliant with EC Treaty rules on restrictive business practices (Article 81).

In parallel with the above proceedings, the Commission has been tackling the issue of retail roaming prices since December 2004 when the ERG – the group of national telecom regulators set up by the Commission to help coordinate electronic communications regulation across the EU – started a coordinated investigation into the international roaming wholesale prices that mobile operators charge each other (see IP/04/1458).

These investigations are ongoing and, since May, have reached a new phase as national regulators, drawing on a common approach agreed at an ERG meeting in May, are now proceeding with analysis of their national markets. They will notify the Commission of their planned decisions in due course. “Retail charges are currently very high without clear justification”, is one of the conclusions of the ERG, see

http://erg.eu.int/doc/whatsnew/reg_intens_wrk_intl_roaming_mtg.pdf

In July 2005, Commissioner Reding announced her intention to launch a website which would make consumer prices more transparent in the context of international roaming (see IP/05/901). This website is a concrete European response to the ongoing concerns that charges for international roaming are unjustifiably high.

The Commission’s new Consumer Website on Roaming prices can be found at:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/roaming

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/doc/factsheets/051-roaming.pdf

See also MEMO/05/247.


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