Industry Committee backed new rules to lower mobile roaming rates

MEPs at the Industry Committee have adopted the rules which sets out lower roaming price caps for calls and SMS texts. In addition, for the first time, they would also cap retail data roaming chargers. The rules, who are supposed to be applied from June 2012, have still to be voted by the European Parliament as a whole.

MEPs at the Industry Committee backed new rules which from June 2012 will set lower roaming price caps for calls and SMS text and for the first time, would also cap retail data roaming charges. Furthermore, the new rules within the EU roaming regulation will enable retail clients to buy roaming services from suppliers other than their home service suppliers and help alternative suppliers to enter the market. The last in the series of regulated price cuts under the current EU Roaming Regulation was applied from July 2011.

The new regulation is aimed at boosting competition as well as improving market conditions for consumers. Although mobile phone operators have reduced roaming tariffs to match EU price caps, customers are still not being offered roaming tariffs that are markedly lower than the caps, because the roaming market has not developed sufficiently and structural problems persist. In addition, the committee also suggested requiring operators to offer retail roaming services separately from 1 March 2014. Home providers would have to inform their customers of this right and any switch to an alternative roaming service provider would have to be free of charge. With this aim of transparency, the regulation also improve price transparency and information on charges to users of roaming services, first within the EU and from 1 January 2013, outside it.

With regard to the roaming cap prices, the Industry, Research and Energy Committee set lower price caps than the Commission's proposal to enable best tariffs for consumers while ensuring a sufficient margin between wholesale and retail prices to assure a level of competition that can bring down prices. Until proposed structural measures take full effect and stronger competition reduces retail prices, there should be a gradual reduction in current wholesale prices (charged between operators) and retail prices (charged to consumers). The draft legislation also sets lower caps for voice and SMS roaming charges and proposes the EU's first price cap for mobile data services.