Roaming Costs Slashed

Despite France and the UK trying to buy time, EU member states have agreed in principal to slash mobile roaming charges which should cut 70% off the cost of using a mobile when abroad.    

Viviane Reding, the EU commissioner for information society and media, revelaed plans earlier this year to place price caps on the wholesale roaming fees that are charged between networks within the European Union. Reding proposed that retail caps be introduced to ensure that customers benefit from lower wholesale prices.

Networks were outraged as they believed that prices were already dropping, and the caps would slow investment.

The Commission altered the proposal suggesting the wholesale cost should be capped based on the cost of the termination rate for calls, which varies from country to country. For UK customers this would mean the cost capped at around 11 pence a minute. Calling from abroad will be limited to 32 pence a minute, and making local calls while abroad will be limited to 22 pence a minute.

Most states represented at a meeting in Brussels this week supported a French and British proposal to dilute the impact of the measure and called for a so-called sunrise clause.

"In this way we would be allowing operators to react," French Industry Minister Francois Loos told the meeting.

Portugal, Romania, the Czech Republic, Sweden, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Belgium, Latvia, Denmark, Malta and Austria supported the changes put forward by France and Britain.

Reding believes the UK and France’s proposals would be a "catastrophe" and could ruin her plans to cut roaming costs. The logistics of trying to monitor every tariff from every European mobile operator would be too great a task for the Commission. She remains convinced it would be best to go for a restriction of roaming charges straight immediately.

"Do we really want to create a sort of Eurostat for calculating roaming prices? All those who want less red tape cannot have a sunrise clause as that would create the exact opposite," Reding told the ministers.

"Those who want a sunrise clause want a delay for several years, and they should explain that to consumers," she added.