EU imposes new price caps for voice and data roaming

European mobile operators will once again be obliged to cut roaming tariffs in line with EU regulations that were first introduced in 2007. As of Friday, July 1, consumers opting for the EU-regulated “Eurotariff” will pay no more than 35c per minute for calls made and 11c per minute for calls received while roaming in the EU.

According to the EU Commission, while price reductions have temporarily brought down roaming rates, “current rules did not solve the underlying problems of lack of competition in roaming services and prices remained stubbornly close to the retail caps.”

According to the Commission, the current tariff situation “creates a need for a new regulatory intervention” to meet targets set in the Digital Agenda for Europe and the difference between roaming and national telecoms tariffs “should approach zero by 2015.” The Commission said that these targets could be met if there was increased competition in mobile markets, giving consumers a rapid and easy choice of roaming service at, or close to, a relevant competitive domestic price level. Accordingly, the Commission has said it will present proposals for a long-term solution to “the structural problems in the markets for voice, text and data roaming” very shortly.

As of tomorrow, the cap for data roaming wholesale prices will drop to 50c per MB (down from 80c). Current regulations do not oblige carriers to implement any similar cap for retail data service but the Commission has said that consumers and business travellers will “continue to be protected from unexpected ‘bill shocks’” for data roaming, as monthly bills for data are limited to €50 unless the customer explicitly agrees otherwise.

According to EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes, the latest price caps will “temporarily reduce retail prices for making and receiving voice calls” in the coming year. She added that that it would, however, be necessary to “tackle roaming problems at the root with a long lasting structural approach,” that would include addressing what she said was a lack of competition in roaming markets.

The current regulations are the last in a series of EU-enforced price cuts which are scheduled to end in June 2012. All member states’ national telecoms regulators are required to ensure that carriers in their respective countries comply with the new rules of data roaming and voice calls.

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