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Brussels, 11 April 2007

The EU Regulation to Reduce Mobile Roaming Charges by 70% – Final round of Committee voting in the European Parliament

On Thursday 12 April, at around 10:30 a.m., the Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) Committee of the European Parliament will take an important vote on the European Commission's proposal to reduce international mobile roaming charges by 70% as from this summer. Even though the final view of the European Parliament will only be known once the plenary has voted on the Commission proposal – which is expected to take place by mid-May – the vote in ITRE (the European Parliament's lead Committee as regards the EU Roaming Regulation, with the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee IMCO being associated to it) will be important to shape the final text to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council this summer. The Committee's Rapporteur on Roaming is Paul Rübig (EPP-ED, Austria)[1].

EU Telecom Commissioner Reding commented before the vote in the ITRE Committee as follows: "A political agreement on lower roaming tariffs is now within reach. In this important phase of the legislative procedure, it is of crucial importance to ensure that all consumers in the EU will be able to benefit from lower roaming charges, and that no one is left behind. I warn against a regulation that would only lead to lower roaming charges for new customers. With mobile phone penetration in the EU now at 103%, practically all EU citizens already have a mobile phone contract. Therefore, such an opt-in clause would deprive most consumers of the beneficial effects of the new EU Regulation. In addition, an opt-in clause would put the burden of advertising for lower roaming charges on national regulators and on the EU institutions, and thus on European taxpayers. I am convinced that it would be a much better incentive for more effective competition among mobile operators if they had to convince customers that they offer packages which offer an even better deal than the new EU Regulation."
On the EU Roaming Regulation, the European Council, which includes the 27 Heads of State or Government and the President of the European Commission, concluded on 9 March in Brussels: "Every effort should be made to successfully conclude the legislative process on the reduction of roaming tariffs by the end of the first half of 2007."
Following the vote in the European Parliament's plenary expected for May, the EU Council of Telecom Ministers, which made substantial progress on the EU Regulation at its informal meeting in Hannover on 15 March, could arrive at a final position on the EU Roaming Regulation at its formal meeting in Luxembourg on 7 June. The new EU Regulation would be directly applicable in all EU Member States from the moment of its publication in the EU's Official Journal (Article 249(2) of the EC Treaty).

What does the European Commission's proposed regulation to reduce roaming tariffs do?

With its proposal of 12 July 2006 for an EU Regulation on mobile roaming in the internal market, the European Commission seeks to reduce by up to 70% the charges consumers currently have to pay for using their mobile phone abroad (IP/06/978). To achieve this, price ceilings are set both at wholesale and at retail level to ensure that mobile roaming charges are not unjustifiably higher than those incurred by domestic mobile phone use. Below these ceilings, competition should take place for the most attractive roaming packages.

The EU Roaming Regulation also will enhance price transparency. It obliges mobile service providers to give personalised information on retail roaming charges to their roaming customers – on request and free of charge. Moreover, a customer subscribing to an operator will be able to receive detailed information on roaming and operators will have to keep the subscriber informed periodically on roaming charges.

What is the current status of the Commission's roaming proposal and what are the next steps?

The Commission is confident that the European Parliament and the Council can reach an agreement in the first reading on the EU Roaming Regulation by June. Of course, to achieve this, further close cooperation between Parliament and Council will be necessary.

The support for the overall objectives, which the Parliament and Council have already shown, is currently evolving into a consensus on the final shape of the EU Regulation. Discussions are concentrating at the moment on the method of wholesale and retail regulation and on the scope of the EU Roaming Regulation (only voice roaming or also data roaming). The German Presidency aims to secure an agreement in first reading during the Telecoms Council on 7 June.

In the European Parliament, the Economic and Monetary Committee was the first to express its (non-binding) opinion on Wednesday, 21 March. The following day, the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee and the Culture and Education Committee followed with their own votes. Both Committees agreed with the need for an EU regulation that includes both wholesale and retail regulation. On 12 April, the final round of committee voting will take place when the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) delivers its opinion.

A plenary vote on the EU Roaming Regulation is expected to take place in May.

What are the different views among the Commission, Parliament and Council?

There is broad agreement both on the objectives of the EU Roaming Regulation among the Commission, Parliament and Council and on its general architecture (a combination of wholesale and retail regulation), not to mention strong consumer support (IP/06/1515). The discussion now is focusing on different ways in which the objectives can be achieved through the regulation and on the level of the price caps – see table below for a comparison of the different models currently under discussion.
The two main open questions in the legislative procedure are:

  • whether all consumers should automatically profit from the new EU Regulation, while having the possibility to opt for a package offered by operators that is even more beneficial (opt-out system); or whether only consumers who explicitly tell their operator that they want to profit from the lower tariffs under the EU regulation will be able to profit from the new EU regulation (opt-in system).
  • where exactly the caps for the maximum permissible roaming charges at the retail level will be set; proposals vary between 0.40 and 52 cent for mobile calls made abroad; and between 0.15 and 0.25 cent for mobile calls received abroad.

Will the proposed EU regulation address the wholesale market, the retail market or a combination of the two?

Although the Commission generally prefers not to regulate retail markets, the proposed EU regulation on roaming addresses the wholesale and the retail level, due to the exceptional nature of the roaming market and its atypical development. The Commission’s assessment is that market forces are still insufficient to ensure that price reductions at wholesale level are passed on to consumers in the retail market. Retail regulation ensures that savings are passed on to consumers and that consumers will actually benefit from the new EU Roaming Regulation.

Why does the Commission support a single absolute retail price cap?

The Commission believes that a single absolute price cap adds simplicity and therefore is a good basis to move forward. An absolute cap adds certainty for operators and ensures that they will still be able to offer innovative prices at the retail level. The level as proposed by the Commission is aimed at ensuring this will still be a profitable business for operators. The Commission's view on this issue is also supported by the European consumer organisation BEUC's recent study published on 20 February – The alternative suggested by some, namely to use average caps, would in the Commission's view create unnecessary complexity, confusion and administrative burdens.

Should there be a general consumer protection tariff for roaming customers at retail level?

There seems to be general agreement on the need for a consumer protection tariff and thus for retail regulation. Such a tariff was already proposed by the Commission in the regulation last July. The Commission is at the same time in favour of flexibility in the market, provided that consumer confidence is not abused or misled. Consumers should have to decide consciously to choose an alternative package or tariff plan (opt-out), but failure to do so would mean that they are automatically covered by the consumer protection tariff.

Would consumers have to subscribe actively (opt-in) to the consumer protection tariff?

No. In the Commission's view all consumers should be able to rely on the consumer protection tariff and a suitable opt-out arrangement would have to be in place to ensure this. The Commission believes this is the only approach that guarantees that consumers get the level of protection they need. Opt-in, on the other hand, would mean that operators would need to draw the attention of consumers to the consumer protection tariff, but would have very little incentive to do this in a way that represented the benefits of that tariff fairly and objectively.

Does the proposed EU regulation also cover SMS and data roaming?

The regulation as proposed on 12 July 2006 includes short message services (SMS) and Multimedia Message Services (MMS) in their scope, but caps the roaming prices only for voice services. It requires national regulators to monitor developments in the prices of roamed SMS and data services closely. The Commission calls on mobile operators to demonstrate very clearly in the weeks to come their willingness to voluntarily reduce the very high roaming charges for SMS and data roaming to avoid the need for regulating these charges also.

When will the new EU regulation on roaming take effect?

The European Parliament and the Council of Ministers have to decide jointly, under the so-called “co-decision procedure”, how and when to adopt the Commission proposal, at which point it becomes binding law in all Member States. The Commission believes that the Regulation should come into force by summer 2007.

Further information:

The European Commission’s roaming website (IP/05/901), includes samples of roaming tariffs per country as well as the results of the Eurobarometer survey about citizens' views on roaming (IP/06/1515) can be accessed at:

Summary table of positions between the European Commission, European Parliament and Council Presidency

European Commission
European Parliament
Council Presidency




Calling home
Wholesale cap for calling home based on 3 x MTR

(ITRE Rapporteur)
Wholesale cap based on around 2 x MTR
Wholesale cap based on 2.6 x MTR

Calling in visited country
Wholesale cap for calling within country based on 2 x MTR

Single wholesale cap

Single wholesale cap
Calling home
30% mark-up

(ITRE Rapporteur)
Absolute maximum consumer protection tariff
Absolute maximum consumer protection tariff for making a call - 20 cent mark-up on wholesale cap

Calling abroad
30% mark-up

Single retail cap

Single retail cap
Receiving a call
30% mark-up

(ITRE Rapporteur)
Absolute maximum consumer protection tariff for receiving call
Absolute maximum consumer protection tariff for receiving a call – 14 cent mark-up on MTR

Extra cap on average charges
No additional cap on average charges
No additional cap on average charges

A single overall average cap in addition to the consumer protection tariff above

[1] The Rübig report can be found at

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