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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).
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."
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 – http://www.beuc.org. 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.
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.
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.
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
 The Rübig report can be found at http://cocean.creato.at/cms//mediadb/23_348.pdf