Brussels, 28 March 2006
International Mobile Roaming: Commissioner Reding outlines proposal for an EU regulation to bring down prices and presents new figures
Excessive charges for using your mobile phone abroad could soon belong to the past. The European Commission’s updated website of international roaming charges, unveiled today, adds further weight to its proposal to bring down these charges by means of an EU regulation. The updated website clearly shows that the price for a standard four-minute call has generally remained at the same high level across Europe since September 2005 (see IP/05/1217), and in some cases has even increased, despite warnings from the Commission to the industry that EU-wide regulation would be necessary if prices were not brought down (see IP/04/1458, IP/05/901and MEMO/05/247).
“It is high time that the EU’s internal market delivered substantially lower communication charges for consumers and business people traveling abroad”, said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. “I therefore propose that an EU regulation be used to eliminate all unjustified roaming charges. A mobile phone customer should not be charged a higher tariff just because he is travelling abroad.”
“We strongly support Commissioner Reding’s commitment to address this enduring problem”, added Kip Meek, Chief Policy Partner at Ofcom, the UK telecom regulator, who is currently also President of the European Regulators Group (ERG), the body which brings together the EU’s 25 national telecom regulators and advises the Commission. “The ERG is very committed to working together with Commissioner Reding to come up with a practical, proportionate and speedy mechanism for getting retail roaming prices down by a substantial margin.”
The updated Commission website launched today – which is available in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Polish – shows that for a four-minute call, roaming prices still vary from as little as €0.20 for a Finnish consumer calling home from Sweden to €13.05 for a four-minute call by a Maltese consumer in Latvia. In some cases, roaming prices have even increased over the past six months: In the UK, one operator has increased the price for roaming from €3.45 to €4.92 when consumers call home across the EU. Lithuanian customers are charged for a four minute call from France between €4.41 and a staggering €12.08.
Special roaming packages offered by some operators have not been widely taken up by consumers since most of these tariffs are offered on an opt-in basis or may have an additional monthly charge attached to them. Only in a few exceptional cases has some progress been made. An operator in Belgium has introduced a flat rate for roaming which has brought down the price from €7.20 to €4.40 for a call home while roaming in Cyprus. In Ireland, the Commission’s first announcement of regulatory measures on roaming was followed by the elimination by several operators of roaming charges for travellers to the UK.
The Commission is currently working on a proposal for an EU regulation to bring down international roaming charges on the basis of internal market principles. Commissioner Reding outlined today the main elements of this proposal:
• The new EU regulation should in any event address inter-operator tariffs (wholesale prices). The EU regulation would ensure that operators do not charge operators from other countries substantially more than the actual cost.
• To ensure that operator savings at the wholesale level are actually passed on to the consumer, the Commission sees also a need for regulation at the retail level.
• The new EU regulation could in particular eliminate all roaming charges for receiving a call when traveling abroad in the EU.
• In addition, for calls made while travelling abroad in the EU, the new EU regulation could introduce the “home pricing” principle. A mobile customer travelling abroad in the EU would always be charged only the prices that he is used to paying in his country of residence: he would either pay a local tariff when making a local call, regardless of where he is traveling in the EU (e.g. for calling a cab while traveling in Madrid); or a normal international tariff for calls made to EU destinations, regardless of where he is traveling in the EU (e.g. for calling the family back home while on holidays).
The Commission has already held a first phase of consultations on the general idea of an EU regulation on international roaming with a call for comments on the Commission’s website from 20 February to 22 March. On the basis of today’s outline of the proposed EU regulation, this consultation will go into a second phase on 3 April and be open until 28 April. Following a detailed impact assessment, the Commission could adopt the proposal in June. The proposed EU regulation on international roaming will require the approval of the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. It would be an internal market instrument and without prejudice to ongoing competition cases on international roaming (see IP/04/994, IP/05/161).
The European Council noted on 24 March “the importance for
competitiveness of reducing roaming charges.”
See also MEMO/06/144