EC publishes plans for roaming cuts

The European Commission has tabled a set of proposals on roaming charges that could mean reductions of up to 70% for users if they are accepted by the European Parliament and the European Union Council of Ministers.

Roaming has become an article of faith with Information Commissioner Viviane Reding. In the face of fierce resistance from operators and in spite of moves from some of them to trim charges in advance of her plans, she is proposing a cap on wholesale and retail rates under her so-called European Home Market Approach.

On wholesale, the Commission would take as its starting point the tariffs for connecting mobile phones from other domestic networks.

Then operators would be able to add to their wholesale cost a retail mark-up of no more than 30%, which is the margin that operators can normally make with domestic phone calls.

But Ms Reding has watered down the proposed regulations, in particular by dropping a so-called “country-of-origin” principle. That would mean a traveller would continue to pay their domestic rate even when abroad, and it would centainly have fostered a market in imported SIM cards from countries with the lowest rates.

Reportedly the proposals also have abandoned plans to remnove charges for receiving calls while abroad.

The GSM Association responded that operators would have to raise their domestic prices to compensate for lower roaming profits. The Commission has quoted figures putting the EU market for international roaming at around e8.5bn, some  5.7% of total mobile industry revenues. If passed, the new EU regulation would lead to consumers paying around e5bn less.

In the meantime European mobile operators have launched www.roaming.gsmeurope.org, a website that enables European consumers to find the best tariffs for making and receiving mobile phone calls when travelling abroad this summer. The site, which features up-to-date prices supplied directly by 75 operators from across the European Union, claims to be the most comprehensive and accurate source of roaming information for travellers.