Europe Votes to Reduce Roaming SMS and Mobile Data Costs
Yesterday evening the European Parliament, through a vote in its Industry Committee, gave strong support to the European Commission's proposals to reduce consumer roaming charges for sending text messages and downloading data in the EU. The Commission proposed in September 2008 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 measures to reduce the cost of data roaming charges. To pave the way for lower consumer charges, the Industry Committee voted in favour of a cap on interoperator 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. 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.
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.