Europe to fight mobile roaming fees

Roaming Rip-Offs: The European Commission has lost patience over the excessive fees levied by mobile operators on customers when calling abroad

The European Commission has hit out at mobile operators for overcharging users who use their phones when abroad.

Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Information, Society & Media, held a meeting with national regulators on Wednesday afternoon in Brussels, at which she demanded action to clamp down on roaming rip-offs.

Reding is expected to announce on Thursday that roaming charges should be capped at the level of a standard mobile call between networks. At present, some consumers can be charged up to five euros per minute, which Reding has slammed as "fantasy costs."

"I am proposing to act because I have left it to the market until now to get things right," Reding told the BBC. "I have told the market in 2004 and 2005 that it had to bring the prices down. It didn't, so now legislative initiative is necessary to have these very frustrating prices, for the consumer, brought to normal."

It is unclear whether the EU plans to take action over the cost of using data services overseas. Some UK customers have been charged as much as £10 per MB of data when using 3G cards abroad. However, Ofcom has already indicated that it won't take action over roaming costs for data services.

Chris Lewis, enterprise practice leader at Ovum, believes that mobile operators must be more obvious about roaming pricing.

"The problem is that as long as you are in one country you can get a good deal but as soon as you need to have roaming, especially in multi-country locations, you have a problem because no one company can do it all," Lewis told ZDNet UK.

"The problem is that there are always political issues as the operators are often the incumbents or very successful players in that market," Lewis added.

Mobile roaming charges are expected to be one of the issues discussed at next week's 3GSM event in Barcelona. ZDNet UK will be reporting live from the event, please check the 3GSM Toolkit for all the latest show news.

ZDNet UK's Andrew Donoghue contributed to this report.