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Digital Agenda: Commission launches consultation on review of EU 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 yesterday. 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 (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200) 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. The Commission wants all roaming customers to have rapid and easy access to competitive roaming tariffs for voice, SMS and data, where operators' prices to consumers would be more closely aligned with the true cost of efficiently providing roaming services.
Responses to the public consultation will feed into the Commission's 2011 review of roaming rules and will help the Commission to propose the most appropriate solutions to improve the functioning of the market.
The 2007 EU Roaming Regulation (MEMO/07/251, IP/07/1202) introduced wholesale and retail price caps for roaming charges and included measures to increase transparency. In 2009, the EU amended the Roaming Regulation to lower the prices of voice, text messages and data services further. The amendment introduced a "Euro-SMS tariff" limiting the price of an SMS to €0.11 (excluding VAT) and, for data, a wholesale cap per MegaByte uploaded or downloaded (at the level €0.80 as of 1 July 2010).
Also from 1st July 2010, travellers' data-roaming bill is automatically limited to €50 per month excluding VAT (unless they have chosen another limit - higher or lower). Operators have to send users a warning when they reach 80% of their data-roaming bill limit. The operator has to cut off the mobile internet connection once the limit has been reached, unless the customer has indicated they want to continue data roaming that particular month.
Since 1st July 2010, the price cap for making a roaming voice calls is €0.39 per minute (excluding VAT), while receiving a roaming call costs a maximum of €0.15 per minute (excluding VAT).The 2009 Roaming Regulation is valid until 30 June 2012.
In a June 2010 interim report (see IP/10/851), the Commission noted that although legislation has led to lower roaming prices, this market is not yet strong enough to provide the best choice and even better prices to consumers. Retail prices tend to cluster around the EU regulated maximum price caps and the Commission considers that EU rules give operators plenty of margin to offer more attractive roaming tariffs below the regulatory limit. In the second quarter of 2010, the EU legal maximum for roamed voice calls was €0.43 per minute, and consumers who chose the "Euro- tariff" paid on average €0.38 per minute for making a roaming phone call. Euro-tariff consumers also paid on average €0.16 per minute for calls received while roaming, slightly below the legal cap of €0.19.
The Commission must complete the review of EU roaming rules and report to the European Parliament and Council by 30 June 2011.
The consultation document is available at:
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