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MEMO/07/251

Brussels, 25 June 2007

International Mobile Roaming : how will the new “Eurotariffs” reduce the cost of using a mobile phone in the European Union?

The European Union (EU) Regulation on international mobile roaming comes into force in the 27 EU Member States at the end of this week, meaning that consumers will be able to benefit from “Eurotariff” rates from August 2007.

What is international “roaming”?

International roaming means being able to use a mobile phone whilst abroad. Mobile phone users are “roaming” when they make or receive a call abroad while transferred onto a foreign operator's network. This “host” operator processes calls made or received during the user’s stay abroad. Instead of sending the customer a bill, the host operator charges the user's home operator using a wholesale rate agreed between the two companies. The home operator then recovers the cost of this procedure, either in the form of a charge that appears on the user’s next bill or by deducting the amount from his/her credit. It should be noted that international roaming also applies to calls made to a local number, for example, if a customer orders a taxi or books a table in a restaurant whilst abroad.

What is "Eurotariff”?

The new EU Regulation sets limits on international roaming rates. These limits, or “Eurotariffs”, will be gradually reduced over the three years following the Regulation’s entry into force.

In order to ensure competition, the Regulation will encourage operators to offer prices well below the Eurotariff rate, making roaming easier and above all cheaper for users.

The Eurotariff rates per minute and excluding VAT are as follows:


From Summer 2007
From Summer 2008
From Summer 2009
Eurotariff for calls made from abroad
€0.49
€0.46
€0.43
Eurotariff for calls received whilst abroad
€0.24
€0.22
€0.19

The Eurotariff applies to customers that are not on special roaming packages. Operators must not exceed this ceiling for customers who are on a Eurotariff. This does not mean that such customers will not benefit from lower prices. Competition may lead operators to offer tariffs below the ceiling set at €0.49 and €0.24 maximum for mobile calls made and received from abroad.

When will the Regulation apply?

The Regulation will be directly applicable in the 27 EU Member States (including outermost regions) as from 30 June 2007, i.e. the day after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Union. Operators will be legally obliged to offer customers a Eurotariff rate from 30 June 2007.

In which countries will it apply?

Eurotariff will apply in the 27 Member States of the European Union. It may also soon be adopted in a number of neighbouring countries, such as Iceland, Norway or Liechtenstein (members of the European Economic Area).

How can customers benefit from the Eurotariff?

If you have a European mobile telephone operator, you can benefit from Eurotariff rates, irrespective of your rate plan.

1. From 30 June 2007, mobile telephone operators will have one month to offer you a "Eurotariff" (i.e. by 30 July 2007 at the latest).

2. You will then have two months to choose between the Eurotariff rate or another plan and inform your operator.

3. Once you have made your request, your operator will have a maximum of one month to activate the Eurotariff.

In short, the most proactive users, i.e. those who reply to the offer from their operator as soon as possible, will benefit from Eurotariff rates from August 2007.

PLEASE NOTE:

If you already have a special roaming tariff before the Regulation comes into force and you do not reply to the offer from your operator within two months, you will continue to be charged on the basis of the special roaming tariff.

However, if you do not have a special roaming tariff before the Regulation comes into force and you do not reply to the offer from your operator within two months, the Eurotariff rate will apply automatically.

[ Figures and graphics available in PDF and WORD PROCESSED ]

Mobile phone operators will also have to keep customers regularly updated about any changes to roaming rates.

Which services are affected by the Roaming Regulation?

The Roaming Regulation applies to telephone calls made from or received by a mobile phone whilst abroad (within the EU), regardless of whether you are a contract customer or a “pay-as-you-go” user. However, it does not apply to other mobile telephone services such as SMS and MMS messages and the transfer of data. In the next few months, the European Commission will be assessing the impact of the Roaming Regulation and, depending on developments in the market, will decide whether the Regulation should be extended in time and scope to cover SMS and MMS messaging and the transfer of data. Mobile operators are however encouraged to reduce tariffs for these services voluntarily as from now.

How much will the changeover to Eurotariff cost?

The changeover is free of charge. Operators cannot require users to pay any supplementary costs.

How can I find my operator's contact details?

Your operator’s contact details will be given on your mobile telephone bill or stored in your telephone’s address book, as well as on the following website:
http://ec.europa.eu/roaming

Am I obliged to sign up for Eurotariff?

No, you are not obliged to do so. However, if you are unhappy with your operator's rates, the Eurotariff can be a good solution.

What happens if I “opt out”?

Signing up for Eurotariff is a right, not an obligation. However, you should be aware that if you do not reply to the operator's offer within two months, Eurotariff rates will apply by default. In practice, this means that the vast majority of users will benefit from Eurotariff rates automatically. If you wish to “opt out”, you should therefore inform your operator.

Users who have already benefited from a special tariff before the Regulation comes into force and do not notify their operator that they are interested in Eurotariff should note that they will continue to be charged at their original special tariff.

How is tariff transparency ensured?

Price transparency is the responsibility of the operators. Your operator is obliged to provide you, free of charge, with clear and customised information on the retail price of international roaming. Operators, for example, are obliged to advise you of their rates as soon as you enter another EU Member State.

National Regulation Authorities (NRAs) are responsible for monitoring and supervising the implementation of the Regulation in their respective countries. A number of them maintain websites which provide details, for example, of the most attractive tariffs for travellers whilst abroad.

The details of the NRA in your country can be found on the following website: http://www.erg.eu.int/links/.

Will lower roaming costs mean an increase in national tariffs?

In a market where competition is already very high, it is unlikely that operators will compensate for reduced international roaming costs by increasing national tariffs, if they want to ensure customer loyalty and remain competitive.

When does the Roaming Regulation expire?

The Roaming Regulation will expire three years after it comes into force. In 18 months, the Commission will assess what effect the Regulation has had, in the light of market developments and concerns with regard to consumer protection. On the basis of these results, the Commission will decide whether the Regulation should be extended in time and scope to cover other mobile phone services such as SMS and MMS messages and the transfer of data.

What action can I take in the event of a dispute with an operator?

In the event of a dispute, you can contact your operator through its outlets and/or on-line customer service departments. If you have any questions, please contact your NRA (http://www.erg.eu.int/links/). You should be informed about the simple, transparent and straightforward procedures which exist for resolving a dispute fairly and quickly in your country.


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