EU rules reduce price of mobile roaming, but problems remain

Commission to propose tougher measures next week

New European Union rules came into force on Friday, reducing the cost for consumers of using mobile phones abroad.

Mobile operators will not be allowed to charge more than €0.35 per minute for calls made and €0.11 per minute for calls received while abroad in the E.U. (excluding VAT).

The current E.U. Roaming Regulation, which expires in June 2012, was introduced in 2007 and has steadily reduced roaming prices. But according to the European Commission the rules have not solved the underlying problem of lack of competition in roaming services and prices remain stubbornly close to the retail caps. Nor does the regulation set maximum prices for downloading data for customers, although the wholesale prices for data roaming (the price which operators charge each other) is capped at €0.50 per megabyte.

Voice roaming prices within Europe are more than three times the level of domestic charges. For data roaming the consumer often pays less than €0.05 for downloading a megabyte of data at home, but this may turn into €2.60 per megabyte when downloading abroad.

"We have to tackle roaming problems at the root with a long-lasting structural approach," said Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

On Wednesday Kroes is due to announce proposals for updated roaming rules that would take effect July 1, 2012. The Commission has set a target for the difference between roaming and national telecoms tariffs to approach zero by 2015. The new proposals are expected to tackle the issue of competition and will include not only voice and text roaming, but also data roaming.

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