'Outrageous' EU roaming prices to fall

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The EU has announced measures to try and cut the high cost of data roaming within Europe.

Its proposed regulation, which would come into force in three years' time, would allow customers to sign up for a cheaper mobile roaming contract, separate from their contract for national mobile services, but using the same phone number and SIM card.

It would also give mobile operators the right to use other operators' networks in other Member States at regulated wholesale prices, to encourage more operators to compete on roaming prices.

Operators would still be obliged to provide information on roaming prices to consumers when they cross into another member state, but customers would be able to opt out easily.

In the meantime, the proposal would progressively lower current retail price caps on voice and SMS services and introduce a new retail price cap for mobile data. By 1 July 2014, roaming consumers should pay no more than 24 cents per minute to make a call, 10 cents per minute to receive a call, 10 cents to send a text message and 50 cents per megabyte to download data or browse the internet whilst travelling abroad.

"This proposal tackles the root cause of the problem – the lack of competition on roaming markets – by giving customers more choice and by giving alternative operators easier access to the roaming market," says Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice president for the Digital Agenda.

"It would also immediately bring down prices for data roaming, where operators currently enjoy outrageous profit margins."

In the long term, says the EU, roaming charges should be no higher than standard domestic tariffs. Although that's been an objective for some time, the EU says that while roaming prices have fallen recently, they've not fallen nearly enough.