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Brussels, 23 May 2007

The new EU Regulation to Reduce Roaming Charges ahead of the European Parliament plenary vote: Frequently Asked Questions

On 23 May, the plenary of the European Parliament votes on the European Commission's proposal for an EU Roaming Regulation to bring down mobile roaming charges by up to 70%. The vote will be preceded by a public debate in the European Parliament in Strasbourg. "For years, the European Parliament, in the name of EU citizens, has asked for lower roaming charges. Now, we have the unique chance to abolish this last border in Europe's internal market once and for all," commented EU Telecom Commissioner Viviane Reding.

What is roaming?
Whenever you make or receive a mobile phone call when abroad, on holiday or on business, you are roaming. You are roaming on a mobile network of a foreign network operator because your home provider normally does not provide a service in the country in which you are travelling. For providing this service, the foreign network operator will charge your home operator. This charge is passed on to you at a different rate.

Calling from abroad

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]
You are travelling to Germany
Your work call home is carried by your operator
It is transferred internationally
Your work's home operator passes the call

Receiving a call while abroad

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]
[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]
Your mother calls you from the UK
The call is transferred to your UK network
It is transferred internationally
The Spanish operator passes the call

How high are prices?

Still far too high, in the European Commission's view. Using your mobile phone abroad is on average four times higher than national mobile calls, differences that cannot be explained by the costs for operators. For example, an Austrian in Malta could pay €10.00 to call home for four minutes. A Spanish customer roaming in Latvia can pay up to €6.31 and a Cypriot roaming in Belgium can pay €12.00 for the same call home. An Irish customer roaming in Malta could pay as much as €11.96 for a four-minute call home.

An updated overview of international mobile roaming charges in Europe (as of March 2007), with tariffs per country, can be found at the Commission's roaming website:

Why does the EU see a need to intervene?

"For too long consumer complaints that roaming charges were punishing those who cross a border went unanswered," says EU Telecom Commissioner Viviane Reding. "National regulators felt powerless as roaming, because of its cross-border nature, went beyond their jurisdiction. My repeated call to operators to lower roaming charges voluntarily was not taken seriously. EU leaders at their Brussels summit in March 2006, with the strong support of the European Parliament, had underlined the importance of lowering roaming charges for Europe's competitiveness. That's why we listened and acted."

Why have operators not brought prices down voluntarily?

Although a few market players have begun to reduce prices this has only been under the threat of regulation from Commissioner Reding (announced in her SPEECH/06/69). There is no guarantee that without this threat, prices would have fallen. In addition, not all consumers stand to gain by existing offers. Many current schemes require users to actively subscribe to them and on top of this they have to pay for the privilege. Such packages also tend to target certain groups only while general consumers remain unaware. That is why the EU Regulation will be fairer for all, and in particular also allow smaller operators to compete.

What do EU citizens think?

In September 2006 a Eurobarometer survey canvassed 24,565 citizens from all across the EU after their summer holidays on how they felt about roaming. The main findings, representative of the EU population as a whole, include:

• 79% of EU citizens surveyed have a mobile phone.

• 44% of mobile phone owners travelled to another EU country in the past year.

• 70% support EU action to lower charges.

• Many mobile phone users use their phones less when abroad as compared to when at home - for 81% this is because of the higher roaming charges.

• 15% switch off their mobile when abroad or simply do not take it with them.

• 59% would use their mobile phone more when abroad, if prices were lower.

• 43% are still confused about the prices for calls whilst abroad.

For the full report see:

How does the new EU Roaming Regulation reduce roaming prices?

The EU Regulation 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.

Maximum limit for the Eurotariff
for calls
made abroad

49 cent

46 cent

43 cent
Maximum limit for the Eurotariff
for calls
received abroad

24 cent

22 cent

19 cent
Inter-Operator tariff

30 cent

28 cent

26 cent

All tariffs per minute and without VAT

The roaming regulation will also ensure that information about pricing is clearer for consumers. It forces mobile service providers to give free personalised information on retail roaming charges to their customers. Also operators will have to regularly tell their users about the latest roaming charges so they all remain informed.

Although the regulation proposes capping roaming prices for voice services only, it at the same time requires national regulators to monitor closely price developments for roamed short message services (SMS) and data services. The Commission calls on mobile operators to demonstrate very clearly their willingness to voluntarily reduce the very high roaming charges for SMS and data roaming to avoid them also having to be regulated.

Why does the EU Roaming Regulation intervene at the wholesale and retail level?

In mobile roaming markets, due to their complex and non-transparent nature, a reduction of wholesale prices does not mean consumers will benefit from lower retail prices. Previous experience with roaming markets show that wholesale savings of roaming costs made by operators have, in general, not been passed on to consumers - a phenomenon noted in particular by the EU's national telecom regulators: This is why the Commission felt a need to intervene exceptionally also at the retail level.

What will the European Parliament decide 23 May 2007?

In the morning of 23 May, 785 European Parliamentarians will debate on the European Commission's proposal for an EU Roaming Regulation in Strasbourg. At 12h00 on 23 May, they are scheduled to vote on the proposal.

The European Parliament vote is the last step before the EU Telecom Ministers formally endorse the EU Roaming Regulation at their meeting in Luxembourg on 7 June.

How much cheaper could using you mobile phone abroad could become?

For calling home from abroad, consumers will save the most in countries where operators impose very high charges. We expect these savings to be of up to 70% for making calls. For example, an Irish customer making a four-minute call home from Malta would pay not €11.96 as before but a maximum of €1.96+VAT according to the regulation, while for a Cypriot in Belgium it would drop from €12.00 to €1.96+VAT.

When will consumers actually see lower roaming tariffs on their phone bills?

"I am confident that this summer, citizens all across Europe will have something else to smile about while on holiday thanks to the new EU roaming Regulation," says EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding " I call on all mobile operators to now start a race for the most attractive roaming package and even to top the offer of the European Union. This would be a clear sign that following regulatory intervention, Europe's mobile roaming markets are finally moving towards competition."

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