European Parliament set to approve roaming cuts

Roaming rip-offs: Two EU committees have voted in favour of proposals to reduce mobile-roaming rates by 70 percent

Two influential EU committees have voted to approve legislation to drastically reduce European roaming charges.

On Thursday, the European Parliament's Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, and the Culture and Education Committee, approved a European Commission proposal to reduce international mobile-roaming charges by 70 percent.

The new legislation on roaming will be effective from the summer, following further discussions in the European Parliament to hammer out the final contents of the law.

Information society and media commissioner, Viviane Reding, welcomed the approval of the committees. "I welcome that in today's votes, two further Committees of the European Parliament have supported the main elements of the EU Regulation proposed by the Commission: caps for roaming charges, both at wholesale and at retail level, as well as clear transparency provisions," she said in a statement.

But Reding said she found it regrettable that many in the European Parliament want only new customers to profit automatically from cheaper roaming tariffs. "Mobile phone penetration in the EU is today at 103 percent — there are thus not many consumers who would profit from the EU regulation if it would apply automatically only to new customers," said Reding.

The commissioner added that many consumers would not take advantage of "opt in" options for cheaper roaming. "If consumers first of all will have to 'opt in' to the cheaper consumer protection tariff, then operators will be able to rely on the passivity of many consumers. And it will in the end be the European taxpayer who will have to pay for national regulators and the European institutions to explain to every single consumer that they have a right now to opt in," said Reding.

The next steps in the legislative process are a vote in the Industry, Research and Energy Committee on 12 April, and a final vote in the plenary of the European Parliament in May.