A House of Lords committee has told the government that current data-roaming charges are "unacceptably high" and are deterring use of smartphones and connected services while abroad.
The House of Lords EU sub-committee on Internal Market, Energy and Transport, wrote to Ed Vaizey, minister for culture, communications and creative industries on Tuesday to call for greater regulation of wholesale and retail pricing for data roaming.
"For too long consumers have been left in the dark as to roaming charges, leading to 'bill shock' when people use their phones abroad," Baroness O'Cathain, chairman of the committee, said in the letter. "The industry will not reduce its prices voluntarily, and the EU needs to keep up its system of price caps in order to drive costs down."
At the beginning of March, Ofcom said up to 1.4 million customers may have suffered 'bill shock' — receipt of an unexpectedly large mobile phone bill — in the past six months alone, many of which were the result of using data services while abroad.
While the committee recommended putting retail and wholesale price caps in place for operators, it also cautioned that there should be a big enough gap between those two levels to "allow for innovation and competition to thrive".
The EU sub-committee said that price caps should be used alongside other measures for long-term reform.
"Retail price caps are only an interim solution: the EU must put in place more sustainable solutions, and by doing so develop a truly competitive marketplace in the longer-term," O'Cathain added.
The letter also said that operators should be providing clearer information on roaming rates. On 5 March, the committee heard evidence from Julie Minns, head of public policy at Three UK who described roaming charges as unjustifiably high.
"We don't believe these charges can be justified," said Minns. "The key is to do with wholesale charges."