Thursday, January 17, 2008

Europe - Roaming review

Roaming Regulation: Commission welcomes first implementation benchmark report

The first benchmark report on international roaming has been published today by the European Regulators’ Group. This report confirms that implementation of the roaming regulation has generally gone smoothly with a high level of compliance in all EU Member States. The European Commission welcomes the findings of this report and urges national regulators to continue monitoring developments so that all European consumers benefit fully from lower roaming charges when making or receiving calls from abroad.

"Monitoring implementation of the roaming regulation is very important: The Commission will itself report on this to the European Parliament and the Council by the end of this year. This initial ERG report published today confirms the general trend towards lower roaming prices but it would be premature to draw firm conclusions at this stage,” said Viviane Reding, the EU Telecoms Commissioner. "However, on the basis of the figures in the report, I remain concerned about prices for SMS and data roaming services. We will watch developments very closely and respond appropriately by the end of 2008."

The ERG Report covers 6 months from April to September 2007 and includes data from 150 mobile providers in all Member States. Given that the Report's findings only run until shortly after the Roaming Regulation's full effects were felt, it is still too early to draw conclusions on the overall effects of the Regulation. However, the figures for that period already illustrate the positive impact of this regulation on average tariffs: prices for roaming calls made and received have both fallen in all EU Member States. The Commission welcomes the fact that operators have not tried to compensate for the effects of the Roaming Regulation by increasing prices for non-regulated roaming calls.

The Commission notes that operators have now broadly complied with the transparency obligations set out in the regulation. However, the Commission is concerned that customers are being charged on a per minute basis instead of for the actual time of the call. For example a customer may only use 20 seconds of a call but be charged for a full minute. At the retail level, the difference between billed and actual minutes appears to be typically around 20%. The Commission agrees with the ERG that it is important to understand the actual average charged to consumers and will consider this issue in its year-end report.

The ERG's Report also highlights that prices for SMS and data roaming services, which are currently not regulated, remain high with a very diverse pattern across Member States. The Commission will report at the end of this year on whether the charges for these services also need to be regulated.

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