EU mobile roaming charges to be slashed

Mobile phone European roaming charges are set to be slashed

The cost of making and taking calls in Europe will fall by up to 75 per cent this summer following European Parliament approval of price caps on mobile roaming charges.

The new regulations to limit roaming charges across the EU will lead to "substantially reduced roaming charges," according to EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding . The regulations will come into effect from June, and will be phased in over three months.

Mobile phone roaming charges will be capped at 49 Euro cents (33p) per minute for making calls within the EU and 24 Euro cents (16p) for taking a call (prices exclude VAT). Charge caps will be further reduced in 2008 and 2009, falling to 43 Euro cents (28p) per minute for making calls and 19 (13p) Euro cents for receiving calls.

The price caps will apply to mobile operators across the 27 EU member states, affecting an estimated 150 million mobile phone users.

EC price caps approval

The regulations still require rubber-stamping by the European Commission and EU national ministers, although final approval is expected on 7 June. The "Eurotariff" roaming caps will be phased in over a three-month period following that approval - meaning some summer holidaymakers may miss out on cheaper calls over the transition period.

The European Commission has been pressing European mobile operators to reduce roaming charges, backed up with the threat of regulatory price capping otherwise. The average price of making a call when roaming in the EU is still on average 4 times higher than domestic calls, the EC claims. The EC identified one case where an operator was charging up to 12 Euro (£8) for a 4-minute roaming call.

"Today is a good day for consumers and business travellers in the EU," Commissioner Reding stated. "From this summer, mobile phone customer will start benefiting from substantially reduced roaming charges when traveling from one EU country to another. Europe's internal market will finally become truly borderless, even for mobile phone bills."

EU regulations "unnecessary"

Mobile industry trade body, the GSM Association (GSMA), claimed however that the regulations were unnecessary, would curb competition and result in long term harm for consumers. In a statement, the GSMA claimed operators were delivering "increasingly good value to consumers on roaming," with the average cost of making and taking calls in Europe now 29 per cent lower than during 2005. It pointed to a growing number of roaming tariffs as evidence that the cost issue was already being addressed - and in some cases, prices were already lower than the EU caps.

The GSMA claimed the regulation was "inappropriate and unprecedented on the basis of the principles of a market economy". It said the caps levels would reduce competition too, and mean operators would be unable to compete with each other on price and on new services.