Roaming Prices for Mobile Calls Drop in Europe
Rates for mobile phone roaming charges in the EU dropped for the fourth consecutive year today. Meanwhile, the European Commission is preparing to announce new regulations aimed at closing the gap between domestic and “foreign” call rates to virtually zero by 2015.
The planned cuts will bring charges for making a voice call while abroad in the EU down to €0.35 from €0.39, and €0.11 from €0.15 for receiving a call (excluding VAT).
The current EU retail price caps were introduced in 2007 and have been lowered every year since then on July 1 in accordance with a formula promulgated in the original legislation. The regulations were put in effect to combat what the Commission called “roaming rip-off,” with mobile network operators hauling in profits of more than 200% for mobile calls made while in another country in the EU, or 300% for calls received. Today’s price cut means that mobile roaming charges are now 75% lower on average than they were six years ago.
While the price caps are extremely popular with consumers, many issues related to roaming charges remain. According to the European Commission, the price caps have not solved the basic problem of lack of competition among roaming services, and prices remain stubbornly close to the retail caps. Voice roaming prices are still more than three times the level of domestic charges.
In addition, data roaming charges, which consumers incur when they use the Internet or download e-mail on their smartphone or laptop outside of their home network, are currently only regulated by wholesale price caps. These are set to fall to €0.50 from €0.80 per megabyte today. But consumer groups and the European Commissioner in charge of telecommunications policy, Neelie Kroes, argue that these caps are ineffective.
Kroes said that the problem of roaming charges needs a “long-lasting structural approach.” Next week the Commission is expected to announce proposals for updated roaming rules that will go into effect July 1, 2012. These rules will address data roaming charges on the retail level as well as voice and text charges.