EU launches consultation on review of mobile phone roaming rules

The European Commission is seeking the views of consumers, businesses, telecom operators and public authorities on the EU mobile phone roaming market in a public consultation launched today. The EU Roaming Regulation imposed a cap on retail prices for roamed voice calls and text messages within the EU, but there is still no competitive Single Market for roaming services. Operators generally set roaming prices close to the regulated price caps and maintain unjustifiably high margins on roaming services. The target set by the Digital Agenda for Europe is that the difference between roaming and national tariffs should approach zero by 2015.

The Commission is inviting parties to evaluate the EU’s existing roaming rules and to share their ideas on the best ways to boost competition in roaming services, while protecting the interests of European consumers and businesses. The consultation runs until 11 February 2011 and will provide a basis for a review of the EU’s current Roaming Regulation which the European Commission has to carry out before the end of June 2011.

Neelie Kroes, Vice-President of the European Commission for the Digital Agenda said: “Huge differences between domestic and roaming charges have no place in a true EU Single Market. We need to address the source of current problems, namely a lack of competition, and to find a durable solution. But we are keeping an open mind on exactly what solution would work.”

The Commission consultation seeks to identify the extent the current EU rules on roaming services have worked in practice. Particular areas of interest are the impact of EU rules on mobile users and service providers and what further measures could be taken to promote competition and consumer satisfaction. The public consultation also seeks views on the most appropriate regulatory or policy options in the short, medium and long term to boost competition in the market and the extent to which technological developments could improve the functioning of the market for voice, text message (SMS) and data services.

In particular, the Commission wants feedback on how to meet the Digital Agenda’s target of a Single Market for telecoms services in which the difference between national and roaming charges should approach zero by 2015.