Crunch time for EU roaming decision

After a vote by the European Parliament Industry Committee Monday night, proposals to cap mobile roaming charges in Europe are to be put to the plenary vote on Wednesday.

After four arduous rounds of negotiations, Members of the European Parliament finally reached a tentative agreement with the Council Presidency on the proposed reduction in prices for millions of roaming customers.

According to a statement form the European Parliament, the EPP-ED (European People’s Party-European Democrats) has signed up to the proposed agreement, whilst the PES (Party of European Socialists) still has some reservations.

According to the most recent compromise, the maximum retail charge, excluding VAT, for regulated roaming calls will be capped at Eur0.49 per minute for outgoing calls and Eur0.24 per minute for incoming calls.

This only brings it down from member state proposed caps of Eur0.50 for calls made and Eur0.25 for calls received, although the cap for outgoing calls will decrease automatically by Eur0.03 per year for a three year period and the cap for incoming calls will decrease by Eur0.02 after the first year and Eur0.03 after the second year.

The average wholesale charge that a ‘visited’ operator can levy on a roaming customer’s ‘home’ operator for the provision of roaming calls will be capped at Eur0.30 per minute. This cap will also decrease automatically by Eur0.02 per year over a three year period after the regulation’s entry into force.

One of the greatest bones of contention in the negotiations was the issue of whether to make the regulated tariffs subject to an opt in or opt out model. The former leaves customers with their old roaming tariffs, unless they deliberately choose to opt into the new system, while the latter ensures that the EU tariff would apply by default.

According to the compromise package, all customers will be free to switch to or from the EU tariff plan at any time, free of charge, within one month after the regulation’s entry into force. After another two months, all customers who have not made a choice will see the EU tariff apply automatically.

But customers already on specific roaming tariffs or packages will not be switched automatically onto the EU tariff.

The full EU Parliament will vote on the compromise text on Wednesday, with a June 7 meeting of the Member States’ telecoms ministers to formally ratify the agreement.

The legislation’s entry into force should follow a few weeks later.

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