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IP/07/1445

Brussels, 4 October 2007

Roaming: Consumer prices now reduced by 60%

Consumers in the European Union have been paying up to 60% less for using their mobile phone abroad since this summer. The transition to the Eurotarrif by Europe's mobile phone operators is proceeding according to plan. This is the result of a study carried out by the 27 national telecom regulators – united in the European Regulators Group (ERG) – in collaboration with the European Commission. Mobile operators have generally complied with the requirements to introduce, offer, and make available a "Eurotariff" (tariffs no higher than 49 eurocents per minute for calls made abroad and no higher than 24 eurocents for calls received abroad, excluding VAT) for all their roaming customers from 30 July. By 30 August, around 200 million EU consumers had already switched to the Eurotariff. Many operators have moved faster than legally required and activated the Eurotariff already in July or in August. The ERG study also shows that operators are generally on track to implement the new transparency provisions introduced by the EU Roaming Regulation.

"The Eurotariff is now the standard price offer for roaming in the EU, as had been the intention of the European legislator," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. "I am glad to see that the move to the Eurotariff has gone smoothly, thanks to the close cooperation between the European Commission and the European Regulators Group, and the strong political support from the European Parliament throughout this summer. I note some remaining problems regarding the transparency of some of the new roaming offers. However, after talks I had today with the ERG and with the European consumer association BEUC, I am convinced that national regulators will take this in hand as soon as possible."

Roberto Viola, the current 2007 Chair of the ERG and Dániel Pataki, upcoming Chairman of the ERG in 2008, said: "The ERG is satisfied with the first results of the Regulation's implementation. The process set up in cooperation between the Commission and the ERG has provided guidelines to industry on how to put into practice the regulation and has helped national regulators in the monitoring activities. This is a very good example of harmonisation at work".

The ERG study on roaming issued today provides a ‘snap-shot’ of early stage implementation of the EU Roaming Regulation (up to end of August) as well as an overview of the availability of the Eurotariff. It is based on the results of a questionnaire sent by the national telecom regulators to providers of international roaming services across the EU. More than 80% of EU mobile network operators, as well as several major European service providers provided data.

With only one or two exceptions, the study shows very good levels of compliance across Europe. While in the first weeks after 30 July, more than 3 million subscribers actively sought the Eurotariff, many millions more[1] benefited directly because their provider made the Eurotariff available to them as a default tariff during the summer: In Germany, Luxembourg, The Netherlands and Portugal, some operators switched their customers to the Eurotariff on 1 July, while in Poland, one operator already did this on 22 June (see IP/07/1202). As of 30 August the Eurotariff was widely available with about 200 million subscribers benefiting from it at that stage. On that basis it can be safely estimated that over 400 million EU citizens will have been protected by a Eurotariff by the end of September.

The Commission, which followed developments closely over the summer, found that a number of operators throughout Europe have been offering Eurotariffs below the maximum levels allowed (49 eurocents per minute for calls made abroad and no higher than 24 eurocents for calls received abroad, excluding VAT). The Commission found the lowest Eurotariffs in Europe were in The Netherlands (20 eurocents both for calls made and received), the United Kingdom (31.57 eurocents for calls made and 12.63 eurocents for calls received), Ireland (32.23 / 15.70 eurocents for calls received), Belgium (37.19 / 23.14 eurocents) and Austria (37.50 / 20.83 eurocents). This could be a first indication of competition evolving, even though more evidence is needed to show that other operators are following this model.

According to the ERG study, all mobile operators confirmed that consumers had been contacted by the required 30 July deadline regarding the availability of the Eurotariff, even though a few national regulators are still following up on consumer complaints about a lack of transparency of some of the offers made. The Commission has concerns that in Belgium, a mobile operator may not have been fully transparent as required by the EU Roaming Regulation. This operator had 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 SMS did not make clear that consumers could have chosen the Eurotariff earlier, and switched to it, by 30 August – information that could be found only on the operator's website. The Commission has informed the ERG and asked the Belgium telecom regulator to follow up this case.

The European Commission and the ERG are now jointly moving to the next stage of monitoring the EU Roaming Regulation's implementation. As of 30 September, the EU Roaming Regulation provides that customers should receive price information every time they cross an internal EU border. In addition, the Commission is preparing a report to the European Parliament – due at the end of 2008 – on the effects of the introduction of the Eurotariff on competition, on the question whether national prices have changed as a result, and on the development of prices for SMS and data roaming. The Commission is launching studies into prices for SMS and data roaming, while the ERG will start its detailed data gathering exercise in October. A first full ERG report to the Commission on this is expected in December.

Background:

The new EU Roaming Regulation (in force since 30 June 2007) requires mobile operators to make available, and actively offer, a Eurotariff to their customers by 30 July (see IP/07/870) and to switch customers to the Eurotariff one month after they have chosen a Eurotariff or if they have not, no later than 30 September 2007. A Eurotariff means per minute roaming charges should not exceed 49 eurocents for making and 24 eurocents for receiving calls abroad (excluding VAT). The Eurotariff will be further reduced in 2008 and 2009.
Further information on roaming:

http://ec.europa.eu/roaming/
Status of the Eurotariff in all 27 EU countries:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/roaming/implementation/benchmark/

On the EU Roaming Regulation, see also MEMO/07/251


[1] An AFP survey showed that on 30 July, 35 million mobile phone customers in Germany were already on the Eurotariff.


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