Roaming: Vote in European Parliament paves way for swift agreement on lower SMS and data roaming charges
The Commission proposed in September 2008 (see IP/08/1386) to make sure that consumers in the EU do not have to pay more than €0.11 per roamed SMS in the EU (excluding VAT) – a proposal endorsed yesterday by the Parliament’s lead Committee on the new roaming legislation. At present, SMS roaming charges in the EU are on average €0.28 per roamed SMS and can go up to over €0.80 in some countries. The Parliament’s Committee also voted in favour of ambitious measures to reduce the cost of data roaming charges (the cost for surfing the web or downloading data via a mobile connection abroad). To pave the way for lower consumer charges, the Industry Committee voted in favour of a cap on inter-operator charges of €0.50 per megabyte of roamed data. The Commission had proposed such a cap, but at €1 per megabyte. The Parliament’s lead Committee on the new roaming legislation also endorsed measures to enhance the transparency of roaming charges to eliminate the risk of "bill shocks" for data roaming. Finally the Industry Committee voted for an obligation of operators to charge roamed calls by the second from the first second of a mobile call abroad (Commission proposal: from the 31st second). The Commission had identified that consumers currently pay around 20% too much for roamed calls abroad because of imprecise billing methods.
"Yesterday’s vote in the European Parliament is very good news for consumers all over Europe. In view of the current economic downturn, the Parliament is right in wanting to strengthen the purchasing power of European consumers as of this summer, which will encourage them to make even more use of their mobile phones", said Viviane Reding, the EU’s Telecoms Commissioner, who had initiated the new roaming legislation and attended the Committee vote in Strasbourg yesterday evening. "I welcome the fact that the Parliament’s lead Committee on the new roaming rules yesterday evening voted in favour of all the main points of the Commission proposal. I congratulate Adina-Ioana Valean, the Parliament’s Rapporteur on roaming in the Industry Committee, for the impressive negotiation skills she has shown over the past months. I would also like to thank Syed Kamall, the Parliament’s Rapporteur on roaming in the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee for his constructive work ensuring that both consumers and businesses can benefit from a practically borderless and transparent single telecoms market for roaming. I would also like to extend my thanks to the Rapporteur of the Culture and Education Committee, Manolis Mavromatis, for his strong support for the Commission proposal."
Yesterday’s vote by the Parliament’s Industry Committee endorsed, by majority vote, all the main features of the Commission’s proposal for new roaming rules, from the €0.11 retail cap for roamed text messages to new transparency obligations. The Industry Committee also supported the principle, proposed by the Commission, that voice roaming calls must be billed by the second. Following the proposal of the Internal Market Committee last week, the Industry Committee voted for an amendment to ensure that this principle applies from the very first second of a roamed call.
The Industry Committee has proposed two further changes to the Commission’s proposal:
- A data roaming wholesale (inter-operator) cap of €0.50 per megabyte. The Commission had proposed a wholesale cap at €1 per megabyte, while the Parliament’s Internal Market Committee had suggested a wholesale cap at €0.25 per megabyte.
- Ending the whole roaming legislation in June 2012, while the Commission had proposed a review in 2013. The Industry Committee proposal would allow the next Commission to review the new rules in the middle of its 5-year mandate.
"I now call on Parliamentarians and Member States to work together very closely over the coming weeks to ensure that the final deal on SMS and data roaming can be concluded well before the European Parliament elections in June", said Commissioner Reding.
The 785 members of the European Parliament will vote in their plenary session scheduled 21-24 April, on the roaming proposal. If the Council agrees with the content of the vote, the new roaming rules will come into effect on 1 July 2009.
On 23 September 2008, the Commission proposed a new Roaming Regulation that would cut by 60% the cost of sending text messages while roaming in the EU (IP/08/1386, MEMO/08/578). It would also reduce the price for using mobile data services abroad and introduce transparency measures against bill shocks. Moreover, the Commission proposed to extend the duration of the current voice roaming Regulation from 2010 to 2013 reducing roaming caps for mobile calls further by €0.03 each year (now at €0.46 for calls made abroad and €0.22 for calls received abroad which would be further reduced to €0.34 for calls made abroad and to €0.10 for calls received abroad by 1 July 2012 [excluding VAT]).
The Council of the EU’s 27 Telecoms Ministers had already endorsed all elements of the Commission proposal on 27 November 2008 (MEMO/08/745).
If you want to know how much you pay while travelling in the EU for a call received/ made, for an SMS sent or megabyte downloaded, visit the EU’s Roaming website which offers an overview of tariffs per country in the EU:
I read with great interest last week a piece of news posted to the IIA site about an Inishowen company that had been awarded a worldwide patent for a novel SMS application called TEXTATAXI. It’s a service that allows you to book a taxi using a single number throughout Ireland. They have also set up similar systems in the UK and the States. Find out more about how it works on their site www.textataxi.com. The company who developed this simple yet effective system are called Text One Group and they are the newest member of the IIA. So a big welcome to them – I’ll be thinking about them on Saturday night!