Commission plans ending roaming rip-offs for text messages abroad

Despite the calls made by the Commission on the industry for self-regulation and voluntary reductions of roaming prices for text messages, those calls have not been answered. The Commission will therefore start working on measures to ensure that consumers benefit from a truly single market for mobile text services.

The 2.5 billion text messages sent every year by roaming customers in the EU cost over 10 times more than domestic short messages (SMS), show figures released today by the European Commission. Despite some developments made there ae still strong asymetries between the conditions given to consummers in different Member States.

In this context, the Commission presented on July 15th a new roaming website to make transparent the prices currently charged to consumers who use their mobile phone for sending text messages or surfing the web abroad in one of the 27 EU Member States. Based on input from the report released by the European Regulators Group (ERG) and from information requested from mobile operators, the website shows:

  • A typical French customer sending a roaming text message from holidays in Italy this summer could pay up to €0.30, while a Czech tourist in Italy would pay up to €0.42 (10.00 CZK). Collected data show that there are still strong asymetries between prices paid by consummers in different Member States.
  • The average retail price of text messages in the EU has remained unchanged since February when Commissioner Reding called on the industry to lower prices voluntarily. A roaming text message still costs around €0.29 (excluding VAT), and can go up to €0.80 for Belgian roamers. This is more than ten times higher than the price for domestic text messages which can be as low as €0.034 according to a new study by the Danish regulator (National IT and Telecom Agency).
  • Prices for data services while roaming still range from €0.25 per MB to over €16 per MB. This can create "bill-shocks" particularly for users who are not aware that such prices apply. In addition, high wholesale rates prevent smaller operators and operators from smaller EU countries from offering more competitive data packages to their customers.

President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, expressed his concern "by the high prices paid by consumers for text messages when they are travelling abroad", and, on her side, Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding, highlighted the need "for EU citizens to be free to text across borders without being ripped off. Roaming charges have already drained the wallets of mobile customers too much, especially the 77% of young people who send texts while using their mobile abroad."

These findings and the results of a public consultation that ended on 2 July will now feed into the Commission's current review of the scope of the EU Roaming Regulation which has been requested by the European Parliament. A detailed impact assessment is in preparation, also taking into account the findings of the ERG.