EU single market package draws closer to approval

The European Parliament’s Industry and Research Committee (ITRE) has voted to approve the telecoms single market package proposed by the European Commission.

The package, outlined in September 2013, aims to abolish roaming rates within the EU as well as coordinate spectrum assignment across the region. It also calls for consumer rights to be harmonised across Europe, EU-wide protection of net neutrality and simpler rules across the EU to enable companies to invest more and cross borders with their offerings.

The package gained approval despite a coalition of 14 European mobile operators, including Liberty Global and Hutchison Whapoa, last week warning of the damaging effects that the package could have on competition in the region due to the way that the text had been worded. The coalition is “extremely concerned that the text only focuses on the end of ‘retail’ roaming prices without ensuring revision of the corresponding regulated ‘wholesale’ roaming caps”.

The package will now be voted on by all MEPs on April 3rd, 2014. In the meantime, EU Member States are discussing the package in working groups. The Commission maintained that it expects the final approval of the package to be granted by the end of 2014, after revealing in January that the reform has faced delays.

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“This is about ensuring a dynamic, healthy, competitive telecoms sector, fit to face the future,” commented vice president of the Commission Neelie Kroes.

“It’s about arming every European business with the tools and networks they need to innovate and grow. And giving every European citizen the seamless connectivity they have come to demand – without unfair practices like blocked services or roaming charges.”

Last month, the European Commission published research that suggests Europe’s mobile operators are missing out on business from 300 million customers by charging roaming premiums within the EU. According to the research, 94 per cent of 28,000 European citizens surveyed said that they limit their use of online services when travelling outside of their home country.

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