EC will cap mobile-roaming charges

Roaming rip-offs: The final decision on price-capping is expected in June, according to commissioner Viviane Reding

Commissioner for information society and media, Viviane Reding, has confirmed that telecoms ministers agreed on Thursday at a meeting in Brussels that there must be a cap both on wholesale and retail roaming charges, and more transparency on pricing.

"In the ministerial meeting yesterday there was a general line. Ministers now agree on several aspects. There must be transparency, a cap on wholesale, and a cap on retail prices," said Reding, speaking to ZDNet UK at the CeBIT 2007 conference in Hanover.

A final decision will be reached in June between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers as to the exact provisions of the telecoms regulation, Reding added. When that decision is reached the regulation will pass into law, and will be directly applicable to European telecoms companies.

Reding welcomed the announcement by O2 on Wednesday that it would be cutting its roaming charges across Europe.

"I welcome all movements among operators to bring down roaming charges — I have been asking for those movements for a long time," said Reding. "Those that offer prices below the regulated consumer protection price will have a very good business model for the future."

"We want prices to go down to normal. People should not be punished [by telecoms companies] when they cross borders," said Reding.

The regulation will apply both to data- and voice-roaming charges. Data-roaming charges typically are several pounds per megabyte of data, and are structured in such a way that users can find themselves hundreds, and even thousands, in the red without knowing it. And, while mobile operators have started to make drastic reductions in voice-roaming charges, data costs remain high.