Roaming cuts receive stamp of approval

European telecoms ministers gave the final seal of approval to proposed roaming caps on Thursday, paving the way for the legislation to come into force before July.

Telecoms ministers for the 27 Member States formally ratified the ‘Eurotariff’ agreement, capping the maximum retail charge, excluding VAT, for regulated roaming calls at Eur0.49 per minute for outgoing calls and Eur0.24 per minute for incoming calls.

The cap for outgoing calls will also decrease automatically by Eur0.03 per year over the following two years, while the cap for incoming calls will decrease by Eur0.02 after the first year and Eur0.03 after the second year.

The legislation should come into force on June 30. Under the plans, subscribers will receive a text message telling them how much they will have to pay when travelling abroad, while an opt-in clause will ensure that customers who have already chosen alternative roaming packages are not moved onto the Eurotariff automatically.

Operators have three months from the introduction of the Eurotariff to move all customers who have not made a choice onto the new EU tariff.

Arun Sarin, chief executive of Vodafone, claims that the Vodafone Passport tariff, “which already offers a better deal than the Eurotariff,” has attracted over 12 million customers.

Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Telecommunications, said at the meeting, “Today we approach the end of a seven year saga of the long fight of the EU institutions against excessive mobile charges.

“I know that some in the industry have been saying that domestic prices may rise now to compensate operators. I find this very hard to believe because competition between mobile operators is fierce on national market. Raising domestic prices means kicking yourself out of the market. Nevertheless, the Commission and national regulators will watch market developments very closely.”

Reding added that regulatory bodies would also monitor data roaming prices during the next 18 months. “The operators should know this, heed these warning signals very carefully and bring the prices down to normal by themselves in order to avoid further regulation,” she said.

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