European mobile roaming charges fall as EC executes plan to harmonise rates by 2015


European mobile roaming charges fall as EC executes plan to harmonise rates by 2015

Warwick Ashford

The cost of making and receiving mobile phone calls in Europe has been cut again, as the European Commission executes plans to make roaming rates the same as domestic rates by 2015.

In April 2009, European parliamentarians (MEPs) voted to enforce cuts of up to 60% for roaming on mobile phones in Europe.

The tariff cut means European mobile operators cannot charge more than 32p per minute for outgoing calls, and 10p per minute for incoming calls, excluding VAT, according to the BBC.

The EC has also reduced the wholesale rate of mobile data from 80 euro cents (72p) to 50 euro cents (45p) per megabyte, but it remains to be seen how much of the reduction operators will pass on to customers.

Under the new rules, operators have to place a £45 cap on users' data consumption by default. But customers can ask to have the limit removed.

Neelie Kroes, EU telecoms commissioner, had indicated she wanted a move from retail price controls towards a more market-based approach, but officials say the continuing lack of price competition in roaming prompted the more stringent approach, according to the Financial Times.

UK mobile operators including O2, Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile challenged the EC's price-cutting plan in the European Court of Justice, but the case was dismissed in June 2010.

In a concession to disgruntled operators, a clause will phase out the price caps before 2016 if the interim measures result in cheaper international calls.

Consumer groups have welcomed the cuts, but say that until structural measures make the market more competitive, further price caps on voice and data roaming would be welcome.

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