Roaming charges set to drop in Europe
European mobile phone users look set to enjoy steep reductions in the charges they pay for sending text messages during their foreign holidays.
Viviane Reding, European commissioner for telecommunications, will on Tuesday confirm she plans to cut the price of sending cross-border text messages. She will also keep open the possibility of intervening to cut the cost of web surfing on handsets while abroad.
The commissioner enraged the mobile industry by forcing the network operators last year to make steep reductions in the price of making phone calls – so-called roaming charges – when European Union citizens are outside their home country but inside the 27-country bloc.
In February, Ms Reding called on operators to cut the price of sending a cross border text message – also known as SMS – from the then average of 29 euro cents to 12 euro cents, on the grounds the charges were well above the cost of providing the service.
On Tuesday she will highlight how the average price has fallen only to 28.5 euro cents, according to figures from the European Regulators Group, which consists of national telecoms watchdogs.
Ms Reding told the Financial Times last night: “I am disappointed with the lack of response of the mobile industry to my call for self-regulation of SMS roaming charges. I am not impressed by this bunker mentality of the mobile industry.”
The European Commission will propose legislation to cap the price of sending cross-border text messages, and Ms Reding will study the case by the ERG for a retail price ceiling of somewhere between 11 and 15 euro cents.
She will also look to cap the wholesale charges that mobile operators impose on each other for sending text messages between their networks. The ERG has recommended a wholesale price ceiling of 4 to 8 euro cents.
The Commission will unveil legislation on text messages in the autumn and – subject to approval by the European parliament and EU member states – it could come into force on July 1 next year.
As part of preparations for the legislation, Ms Reding will also study the case for introducing a cap on the wholesale charges that mobile operators impose on each other for providing cross-border data activities on handsets.
She is concerned that mobile phone users, when abroad, are paying high charges while web surfing or reading e-mail on handsets.
Last, Ms Reding is to propose an extension of the legislation covering the cost of making calls while abroad from 2010 to 2013.