Brussels, 2 August 2007
Roaming in the EU after the 30 July deadline: Most mobile operators comply with the law, but a few "black sheep" still jeopardise consumer benefits
One month after the EU Roaming Regulation to reduce mobile roaming charges by up to 70% entered into force, the Commission has published today a website to benchmark how mobile operators in all 27 Member States have applied the new EU rules. The Commission has found that the broad majority of mobile phone operators comply with the EU Regulation by offering customers the new "Eurotariff" (tariffs no higher than €0.49 per minute for calls made abroad and no higher than €0.24 for calls received abroad, excluding VAT). The Commission notes that many operators offered the Eurotariff already at the start of July while others waited till just before the 30 July deadline. Some operators are also offering prices below the EU cap or new roaming packages. The implementation of the regulation by operators appears to be proceeding smoothly, even though some non-transparent offers risk depriving consumers of the new EU rules' full benefits.
"Today, just one month after the new EU rules on mobile roaming charges came into force, around 50% of consumers in Europe are already profiting from substantially reduced tariffs. The interplay between regulation and the voluntary anticipation of the regulated tariffs by industry appears to benefit consumers, as envisaged by the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers," said Viviane Reding, EU Telecom Commissioner. "I welcome in particular that many operators offered the new Eurotariff as the holiday season began, and that some even went substantially below the regulation's price ceilings. Only in a few cases – the exception rather than the rule – we note attempts to delay the effects of the regulation by non-transparent or possibly even anti-competitive behaviour. These will have to be analysed very carefully by national and European regulators. If we find evidence for behaviour that violates the law, the EU Roaming Regulation foresees sanctions which could be complemented by the full force of competition law."
The Commission asked, by means of a questionnaire, 95 mobile operators about when the Eurotariff was offered and introduced, and its exact rate, during the new EU Regulation's first month. This month is particularly important for EU consumers as mobile operators must offer a Eurotariff to their customers by 30 July. Once a customer accepts this offer, the operator has one month maximum to activate this tariff. If the consumer remains passive, he will automatically switched to the Eurotariff on 30 September.
The results of the Commission's survey are broadly positive:
• Some mobile operators already offered and activated the Eurotariff on 1 July or in the first weeks of July, allowing consumers to benefit from considerably lower prices. One mobile operator even offered and activated it a week before the Regulation entered into force.
• Many operators have automatically shifted consumers to the Eurotariff ensuring that these benefit as soon as possible from lower rates.
• The cheapest Eurotariff so far identified by the Commission is 31.5 cents a minute for calling and 12.6 cents for receiving a mobile call abroad. In addition, some operators are offering special packages which may be interesting for some consumer groups that intensively roam.
On the more negative side, the Commission notes:
• An operator in Cyprus will be offering a Eurotariff only on 30 August, clearly violating the terms of the EU Regulation which require that such an offer is made at the latest by 30 July 2007.
• In Belgium, a mobile operator sent, in the last days of July, an SMS to its customers saying that they would automatically be switched to the Eurotariff on 30 September 2007. The Eurotariff offer itself, which would enable consumers to benefit already by 30 August, could only be found on the operator's website.
• Operators in Latvia did not reply to the Commission's questionnaire. For Estonia, the Commission only received one response while in the case of Finland, two operators have not replied so far.
All in all, the Commission received so far 74 responses from 95 mobile operators. The individual results are made public on the Commission's website as of today.
If the provisions of the new EU Roaming Regulation are violated, it stipulates that effective and dissuasive penalties can be imposed by national regulators.
The EU Roaming Regulation was published in the Official Journal of the EU on 29 June 2007 and became law on 30 June 2007 in all 27 EU Member States (see IP07/870). It states that roaming charges should not exceed €0.49 for making and €0.24 for receiving calls abroad (excluding VAT). Operators can compete below these price caps, by offering even cheaper prices.
The Commission will, in cooperation with the European Regulators Group, do a more detailed analysis in October. The results will be included in the EU Roaming Regulation's evaluation that the Commission has to present to the European Parliament and to the EU Council of Ministers within 18 months after the regulation enters into force.
This evaluation will be the basis for deciding whether or not to prolong or
extend the Regulation and whether to intervene again to also include SMS, MMS
and data roaming which are not currently covered.