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IP/08/1144

Brussels, 15 July 2008

"Texting without borders": Commission plans ending roaming rip-offs for text messages abroad

The 2.5 billion text messages sent every year by roaming customers in the EU cost over 10 times more than domestic short messages (SMS), show figures released today by the European Commission. The average cost of a roaming text message in the EU between October 2007 and March 2008 was €0.29 according to the European Regulators’ Group (ERG), but can be as high as €0.80 for travellers from Belgium. Calls on the industry for self-regulation and voluntary reductions of roaming prices for text messages have not been answered. The Commission will therefore start working on measures to ensure that consumers benefit from a truly single market for mobile text services. The Commission will also seek to put an end to "bill shocks" that can hit roaming customers using a mobile connection to surf the Internet. New measures could be proposed by the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council in early autumn.

Europe's Single Market should be allowed to play its part, making sure that no borders re-appear on travellers' phone bills,” said José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. “On seeing the latest price trends gathered by national telecoms regulators, I am particularly concerned by the high prices paid by consumers for text messages when they are travelling abroad. There is also a danger that European businesses are put off by non-transparent roaming costs for mobile data services. The Commission will closely work together with the European Parliament and the Council to find swift responses to Europe's data roaming problems.

EU citizens should be free to text across borders without being ripped off,” said Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. “Roaming charges have already drained the wallets of mobile customers too much, especially the 77% of young people who send texts while using their mobile abroad. It is not a good sign for the competitiveness of Europe's mobile industry that it still hasn't got the message that credible price reductions are needed to avoid regulation. I will therefore recommend to my fellow Commissioners that we propose a regulation of SMS roaming in October. We will also have to discuss in which way to address data roaming, which continues to be heavily overpriced.

"Based on the assessment of the market made by national regulators, the ERG found that roaming prices for sending text messages are currently too high and has highlighted the need for regulation. We welcome the fact that the Commission has arrived at the same conclusions”, said Dániel Pataki, Chairman of the ERG and Head of the Hungarian National Communications Authority. "In the view of the ERG, a price cap between €0.11 and €0.15 per SMS would be appropriate”, he added.

“On data roaming, we will have to continue to assess the need for additional regulation. We call on the industry to be vigilant on data roaming prices so that price regulation can be ruled out in the future. The ERG is also concerned that lower wholesale charges for data roaming should be available to smaller and newer operators."

The Commission today presented a new roaming website to make transparent the prices currently charged to consumers who use their mobile phone for sending text messages or surfing the web abroad in one of the 27 EU Member States. Based on input from the European Regulators Group (ERG) and from information requested from mobile operators, the website shows:

  • A typical French customer sending a roaming text message from holidays in Italy this summer could pay up to €0.30, while a Czech tourist in Italy would pay up to €0.42 (10.00 CZK). In Spain, a Swedish holidaymaker could pay up to €0.40 (3.79 SEK) per message when roaming, a German €0.41, a Pole €0.45 (1.50 ZL) and a tourist from the UK as much as €0.63 (£0.40 GBP)
  • The average retail price of text messages in the EU has remained unchanged since February when Commissioner Reding called on the industry to lower prices voluntarily. A roaming text message still costs around €0.29 (excluding VAT), and can go up to €0.80 for Belgian roamers. This is more than ten times higher than the price for domestic text messages which can be as low as €0.034 according to a new study by the Danish regulator (National IT and Telecom Agency).
  • Only one operator in Austria reacted to the Commission's call for better prices offering 100 bundled text messages at €0.10 per roamed message as of 16 June.
  • Prices for data services while roaming still range from €0.25 per MB to over €16 per MB (IP/08/1048). This can create "bill-shocks" particularly for users who are not aware that such prices apply. In addition, high wholesale rates prevent smaller operators and operators from smaller EU countries from offering more competitive data packages to their customers.

These findings and the results of a public consultation that ended on 2 July (IP/08/718) will now feed into the Commission's current review of the scope of the EU Roaming Regulation which has been requested by the European Parliament. A detailed impact assessment is in preparation, also taking into account the findings of the ERG.

"The ERG's diligent and detailed work will be of tremendous help to the Commission in arriving at a final decision on text messages and data roaming," said Commissioner Reding. "On this solid basis, the Commission should be able to present a legislative proposal to the European Parliament and the Council in early autumn. I will put all my energy into paving the way for a political agreement still under the French presidency of the EU."

Background

The EU Roaming Regulation came into force on 30 June 2007 (MEMO/08/457, IP/07/870). The Commission is required to report by 30 December 2008 on its implementation and make proposals whether to extend it in time and scope. The Commission originally proposed the Regulation because prices for roaming voice calls were not justified by the underlying costs of providing the service (IP/06/386).

The Commission's new roaming website: http://ec.europa.eu/roaming/

Further information:

http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/cf/itemlongdetail.cfm?item_id=4242

ANNEX

ERG analysis, July 2008

SMS


[Graphic in PDF & Word format]

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

Average: Q2 07: 0.294€, Q3 07: 0.296€, Q4 07: 0.299€, Q1 08: 0.285€

Data


[Graphic in PDF & Word format]

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

Average: Q2 07: 5.945€, Q3 07: 5.350€, Q4 07: 4.420€, Q1 08: 3.642€


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