Monday, February 23, 2009

Europe - Tory MEP on the roaming regulation

Mobile roaming data and SMS price caps: alternatives must be considered
see also IMCO papers

Mr Syed Kamall has written the European Parliament's internal market committee position on the proposed regulation, in which he rejects the approach proposed by the European Commission and proposes several alternatives to price capping for consideration. These include allowing the decision to be made by the European Regulators Group - which brings together national regulators, "non-discrimination" clauses, action against individual abusive operators or markets and the establishment of an exchange for wholesale voice, SMS and data.

Mr Kamall has written a discussion paper highlighting the competitiveness of the telecommunications market. He argues price capping would have severe effects on Europe's competitiveness as investment in new technologies could be reduced as existing business models changed and companies would be forced to recoup costs from lost profits.

In addition, Mr Kamall points out the importance of ensuring that domestic consumers do not lose out, being forced to pay more for their calls than roaming customers.

There are some areas of the proposal which Mr Kamall supports, including the need for greater transparency and the avoidance of bill shock - when consumers return from abroad and receive unexpected large bills. He stresses the importance of making the relevant information available so customers are able to access it while roaming.

Mr Kamall said: "We need to create an environment that brings prices down for everybody, and often price caps and blunt regulation have unintended consequences.

"Regulation should always be an absolute last resort, particularly when the technology and applications for mobile phone data are still developing at a fast pace.

"I have proposed the European Parliament rejects the proposals in order to kick-start the debate since the European Commission does not appear to have provided a comprehensive impact assessment. We should explore if there are alternative ways to reduce prices and provide much clearer information to consumers, without clumsy interference on a pan-European level."

The European Parliament is adopting the Roaming II package through a process of enhanced cooperation -meaning that while its Industry Committee is the lead committee responsible, its Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee's opinion must also be written into the final report.

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