Friday, August 29, 2008

Europe - roaming

European Commission seeks new upper limits on mobile phone roaming charges

The European Commission is seeking new upper limits on mobile phone roaming charges. The Brussels authorities say mobile phone users frequently pay too much, because many providers don't charge by the second. While national watchdogs have been unable to act against these additional charges for roaming, the EU can. "The commission will be considering this in the coming weeks", said a spokesman for Viviane Reding, the European Commissioner for Information Society and Media, in Brussels today. SMS texting is also viewed as too expensive.

Brussels says the national regulators are recommending the imposition of a price limit on roaming SMSs. For end users, they are quoted as saying that 11 to 15 euro cents per text message plus VAT would be reasonable.

The Commission, says that, starting on Sunday, the maximum charges for normal mobile phone roaming calls are to be lowered. Providers can then charge their customers a maximum of 46 euro cents per minute or part thereof – 37 pence, instead of the previous 49 euro cents, excluding VAT, for self-dialled connections. Incoming calls are to cost 22 euro cents – 18 pence, instead of the previous 24 cents, plus tax.

The EU introduced upper limits on mobile phone roaming charges for the first time last year. "As a result over 400 million consumers across Europe have benefited from significant savings of around 60 per cent when making and receiving calls during travel, holiday or business", claims European Commissioner Reding in a press release. "The next challenge is now to bring about a single market for roaming text messages and data services." She is hoping that progress will be made this year.

According to the Commission, regulators had found that charges for roaming data transmissions on mobile networks were "still very high for many users". In the first quarter of 2008, it says, a user paid 2.05 euros per megabyte – £1.65, if the data were sent by members of his provider's group of companies. For companies outside the group, the average charge could be as much as 5.40 euros – £4.35. Italian and Slovakian clients would sometimes even have to pay more than 12 euros per megabyte – £9.66.

The supervisory authorities criticized the charging methods of the mobile phone operators in a report in mid-August, pointing out that they were frequently charging not by the second, but by the minute or part of a minute. That meant customers paying for an average 24 per cent more call time than they actually spent making calls.

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