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Brussels, 11 July 2001

Statement on inquiry regarding mobile roaming

Following enquiries from journalists, the European Commission's spokesperson for competition policy has confirmed that on 11 July 2001, Commission inspectors and officials from national competition authorities have started carrying out simultaneous unannounced inspections at the premises of nine European mobile telephony operators located in the UK and Germany. These inspections are part of the follow-up to the EU-wide sector inquiry into mobile roaming that the Commission launched in January 2000.

Roaming occurs when a mobile phone user makes or receives calls when visiting another network than their home network, for example, when a Vodafone UK subscriber makes or receives calls on the T-Mobile network when he is in Germany. Roaming prices are intransparent to consumers, rigid and at levels that are unrelated to the cost of carriage. The sector inquiry was launched to investigate this problem by collecting comparative information on prices and cost levels for all EU mobile operators.

The sector inquiry established serious competition concerns regarding pricing practices for mobile roaming that warrant further investigations, in particular in the UK and Germany. The first purpose of the inspections in the UK and Germany is to ascertain whether there is evidence of collective fixing of consumer (retail) prices by mobile operators in both countries. Second, the inspections also aim to verify whether German operators have illegally fixed the (wholesale) prices they charge to other operators, and whether these prices are excessive or discriminatory.

The investigation in the UK and Germany is still in a preliminary phase and the Commission has not yet reached any conclusions concerning the companies involved.

Separately, as part of the follow-up to the sector inquiry the Commission is also looking at notifications for competition clearance of Vodafone's Eurocall flat rate roaming scheme, and of the GSM Association's standard international roaming agreement (STIRA) and inter operator tariff (IOT).

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