The European Commissioner responsible for telecoms today
promised her long awaited shake-up
in the structure of mobile roaming charges that if implemented could see
costs reduced by as much as 60 percent overall.
Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for the information
society and media, said in "it is high time that the EU's internal market
delivered substantially lower communication charges for consumers and business
people travelling abroad. I therefore propose that an EU regulation be used to
eliminate all unjustified roaming charges".
In a statement on the Commission's Web site, which was set up to
monitor the high cost of mobile roaming, Reding made it clear that the
Commission intended to act on the principle that, "a mobile phone customer
should not be charged a higher tariff just because he is travelling abroad."
Backing up Reding's remarks, the European Regulators Group
(ERG), which includes Ofcom as a member, said that the high cost of mobile
roaming had "for some time been a source of concern to European authorities" but
that it had proven "difficult to deal with the specific competition problems
related to international roaming under the existing EU Framework".
The ERG proposes that a single Europe-wide cap on wholesale
roaming charges should be applied and suggests that one mechanism for setting
the cap under consideration would "lead to reductions in average wholesale
roaming charges of around 60 percent".
Such a proposal would send shockwaves through the industry
with some vendors already setting their stall out to oppose any intervention on
the issue from Europe.
Vodafone is one vendor that has said it would oppose any
intervention from Europe as necessary. A spokesman for the company told BBC news
that prices for roaming while abroad are "dropping all the time".
But Reding's site points out that some suppliers are
continuing to put prices up. According to a statement on the site, "one U.K.
operator has increased the price for roaming from €3.45 (US$4.16) to €4.92 (US$5.93) when consumers
call home across the EU".
While Reding does not name any company specifically, ZDNet
UK believes this was a reference to O2, which has put up its prices on some of its
calls by more than a Euro. A call to Italy increases from €3.45 (US$4.16) to €4.93 (US$5.94) for
was acquired last year by Spain's Telefonica and some prices from
Telefónica's subsidiary have likewise increased.
There are four main strands to Reding's proposals:
- The EU regulation would ensure that operators do not charge operators from
other countries substantially more than the actual cost.
- Operator savings at the wholesale level will be passed on to the consumer,
so the Commission sees also a need for regulation at the retail level.
- The new EU regulation should eliminate all roaming charges for receiving a
call when travelling abroad in the EU.
- Calls made while travelling abroad in the EU should be on the "home pricing"
principle. So "a mobile customer travelling abroad in the EU would always be
charged only the prices that he is used to paying in his country of residence."