Brussels, 11 July 2005
As the peak holiday season approaches everywhere in Europe, the European Commission is warning consumers about the high cost of using their mobile phones while abroad. Known as “international roaming charges”, these prices have been for some time already a concern both to the Commission and national regulators. In spite of first signs of movement in the markets, the Commission is not satisfied that the prices to be paid by consumers already reflect the result of effective competition. The Commission therefore will take measures to enhance the transparency of international mobile roaming charges to allow consumers the choice of the best offer.
“Using your mobile phone while on holiday abroad can still lead to very unpleasant surprises”, warns Viviane Reding, the Commissioner for Information Society and Media. “I am convinced that substantially more progress from the industry is both necessary and possible. We need to get to a stage where consumers can benefit from better deals than they are currently getting.”
“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 prices for calling your home country from abroad vary greatly in the European Union, starting from 58 eurocent per minute (from Cyprus to Finland with a Finnish subscription) and reaching €5.01 per minute (from Malta to Poland with a Polish subscription). This is particularly felt by tourists and business travellers.
To enhance competition on the international mobile roaming markets and increase price transparency for consumers, the Commission will start publishing, from autumn 2005 onwards, a special website listing samples of international roaming retail tariffs of operators in the 25 EU Member States.
This Commission initiative will be supported by the national telecom regulators which will coordinate action on tariff transparency for international roaming under the auspices of the European Regulators Group (ERG). “I welcome this coordinated initiative of national regulators, which is proof of the efficient cooperation between national regulators and the European Commission”, said Commissioner Reding.
The Commission expects such transparency measures to encourage operators to offer better and fairer prices to their customers.
Commissioner Reding has been tackling the issue of international mobile roaming 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 now 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
See also MEMO/05/247