Tuesday, 24 April 2007

EU increases regulations on mobile roaming in the Internal Market

On 12 April 2007, the European Parliament's Industry, Research and Energy Committee approved the Commission's proposal of July 2006 for an EU Regulation on mobile roaming in the Internal Market. The European Commission wants to reduce the charges mobile phone users have to pay for making calls abroad by up to 70%. In general, the Commission, Parliament and Council agree on the objectives of the EU Roaming Regulation, but unsurprisingly mobile operators do not share their enthusiasm.

The debate rests upon the different ways in which the objectives can be attained through the regulation and on the level of the price caps. The European Parliament's Industry committee approved Paul Rubig's report on ‘Roaming on public mobile networks' which establishes a single cap of €0.40 per minute for outgoing roaming calls and a €0.15 cap for incoming calls and €0.23 for wholesalers, plus VAT.

Therefore, in what concerns wholesale charges, the Industry Committee, decided not to follow the commission proposal which distinguishes between calls made within or outside the “visited network.” The Council has proposed a cap of €0.50 for outgoing calls and €0.25 for incoming calls. Furthermore, the Committee voted that “ all existing and new roaming customers shall automatically be accorded a Euro-tariff (‘opt-in' mechanism) .” Customers may opt for another tariff (or ‘opt out-system'). Moreover, the Committee has agreed that customers may switch to and from the Euro-tariff at no charge within 30 days of their request. The so called “ sunset clause ” was also agreed by the Committee's Members meaning that the roaming regulation should expire within three years “ unless the Commission presents, before its expiry, a proposal to the European Parliament and the Council to prolong its duration .” The vote in the European Parliament's plenary is scheduled for May.

If the EU Council of Telecom Ministers agrees with the European Parliament's report during their meeting in June, then the EU Roaming Regulation may be adopted. Otherwise, there may have to be a second reading. It is important to recall that Europe's telecom industry has been lobbying against roaming regulation. The roaming service is estimated to be worth €8.5 billion a year. Telecom companies have seen the cut on retail prices as an unprecedented excessive government intervention in prices.

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