Monday, 11 June 2007

EU’s Regulation on Mobile Roaming Calls – Who is it Good For?

Good news for holidaymakers but bad news for domestic consumers – the EU Roaming Regulation is likely to lead to higher domestic costs including other mobile services such as text messages. According to Syed Kamall, MEP – who recently spoke at the CIVITAS conference in London – the Roaming Regulation will only benefit MEPs and EU officials. As Syed Kamall argued, “a teenager making a domestic cross-network call on a prepay phone to his mates will often pay up to 40 pence per minute, while a MEP or businessman will shortly pay no more than 34 pence to call across the EU.”

Unsurprisingly, the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council have endorsed the EU Roaming Regulation. On Thursday 7 June, the Council reached a political agreement on the Roaming Regulation and it has approved the European Parliament’s first reading from 23 May 2007. The Regulation will be formally adopted on 25 June and will be directly applicable in all EU Member States after its publication in the EU’s Official Journal, scheduled before the end of June. Therefore, the Regulation will enter into force before the summer as the European Commission had demanded.

However, there have been disagreements over the way in which this regulation has been legislated for. In this case, Article 95 was used as a legal base “to regulate prices.” It should be noted that the House of Commons’ European Scrutiny Committee (ESC) believes that Article 95 should be used to approximate national legislation or to deal with a situation where prospective national legislation was expected to differ, but not to approximate prices. The minister explained to the ESC that according to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling on “smoke flavourings” and on the European Network and Information Security Agency, “Article 95 EC is an appropriate base” for this regulation. The ECJ has laid down a very broad definition of harmonization measures which might be adopted using Article 95 as a legal base.

According to the ESC, the government has not properly considered “the possible consequences for the scope of the Community’s regulatory powers on the wider economy of allowing Article 95 to be used as a legal base to regulate prices in the absence of any need for the approximation of national laws in the area.” The legal basis of the Regulation may be challenged by mobile phone operators, before the ECJ.

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