Brussels, 23 May 2007
Today, the European Parliament, in its plenary session in Strasbourg, voted with a strong majority in favour of an EU Regulation to substantially reduce the charges for using mobile phones abroad. This EU Regulation, which the European Commission proposed on 12 July 2006, was broadly supported by representatives of the 27 EU Member States last week. It will now enter into force before EU citizens enjoy their summer holidays.
"Today is a good day for consumers and business travellers in the EU," says EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. "In a record time of only 10 months, a political agreement could be reached on the EU Roaming Regulation, thanks to the impressive support of the European Parliament and the negotiation skills of the German Presidency. This means that already from this summer, mobile phone customers will start benefiting from substantially reduced roaming charges when travelling from one EU country to another. Europe's internal market will finally become truly borderless, even for mobile phone bills."
In July 2006, the European Commission proposed an EU Regulation to reduce mobile roaming charges within the EU by up to 70%, as an instrument to complete the internal market (see IP/06/978). Despite the Commission's repeated calls to mobile operators, using mobile phones in other EU countries remains on average 4 times more expensive than domestic mobile phone calls – a difference particularly felt by tourists, and small and medium-sized companies with cross-border business activities. A consumer website on roaming tariffs from across the EU, a Commission led-transparency initiative, exposed flagrant roaming prices of up to 12 euro for a 4-minute call (see IP/05/1217), but did not change the pricing behaviour of mobile operators. The Commission therefore proposed to intervene with regulations (see SPEECH/06/69).
The EU Regulation approved today by the European Parliament will, as from this summer, cap mobile roaming charges both among mobile operators and for consumers, while encouraging competition below these price caps. These price caps (also called "Eurotariff") will be further reduced in 2008 and 2009.
All tariffs per minute and without VAT
Following a political agreement achieved last week between the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission, the Council of EU Telecom Ministers is expected to endorse the EU Roaming Regulation on 7 June. The EU Roaming Regulation will then become directly applicable law throughout all 27 EU Member States following its publication in the EU's Official Journal, expected by mid-June.
Despite regulatory pressure, using mobile phones in other EU countries continues to be on average four times more expensive than making domestic mobile phone calls. This is revealed by the March update of the European Commission's roaming website, which informs consumers of sample four-minute call tariffs to a variety of destinations from all mobile network operators in all EU Member States. The March update is the fourth since the launch of the website in September 2005 (see IP/05/1217) and includes for the first time roaming tariffs for consumers travelling from and to Bulgaria and Romania.
• In March 2006, a Belgian consumer roaming in Cyprus had to pay, for a four-minute call, €10 to phone home and €5.03 to receive a call from home. Today, it is €10 to phone home and even €6 to receive a call from home.
• For a Pole roaming in Spain in March 2006 the prices were €5.73 for making and €4.24 for receiving a call. Now it costs €11.34 for making and €4.32 for receiving a call.
Currently some operators offer roaming packages, but they are not widely taken up. Lack of consumer awareness, complexity and often the need to subscribe to such packages can all be reasons for the low subscriber numbers.
The continuously exorbitant roaming charges explain why consumers in Europe continue to be very reluctant in using their mobile phone abroad. Last November's Eurobarometer survey on roaming found 15% of mobile users either do not to take their phones on holiday at all or switch them off completely (see IP/06/1515). 21% only send text messages abroad. When asked why they do not use their phone abroad, 81% said the high costs were the biggest deterrent. However, 59% would use their phones more when abroad if charges were lower.
The Commission's roaming website can be found at: