Roaming prices will become cheaper in the EU

On August 30th, it will become cheaper to make or receive calls while travelling in the EU. The price ceiling for roaming calls (the Eurotariff) introduced by the EU in 2007, will fall from €0.49 to €0.46 per minute (excluding VAT) for making a call, and from €0.24 to €0.22 per minute (excluding VAT) for receiving a call while in another EU country.

These price reductions are the result of the EU Roaming Regulation, proposed by the European Commission in 2006 to curb the excessive roaming charges consumers had to pay for roaming calls (on average €1.15 per minute at the time).

The EU Roaming Regulation which will expire in 2010, is currently under review. Following the specific request of the European Parliament, the Commission must propose by the end of 2008 whether to extend the Regulation in time and in scope. As a result of the application of this Regulation over 400 million consumers across Europe have benefited from significant savings of around 60% when making and receiving calls during travel, holiday or business within the EU. “The next challenge is now to bring about a Single Market for roaming text messages and data services”, said Viviane Reding, EU Telecoms Commissioner.

In this respect, some figures published by national telecoms regulators early this summer have shown that prices for roaming text messages and data services remain unjustifiably high.

The price reductions of August 30th for roaming calls will apply in all 27 Member States. The revised rates for Member States outside the Eurozone (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden and UK) will be calculated using the euro exchange rate of July 30th 2008. In Slovakia, which will join the Eurozone in 2009, this exchange rate will apply during a transitional period until December 31st 2008.

Under the present EU Roaming Regulation prices for roaming calls will go down a last time on 30 August 2009 to €0.43 per minute for making calls and to €0.19 per minute for receiving calls while in another EU country.

Reviewing the Roaming Regulation

As requested by the European Parliament and by the Council, the European Commission is currently reviewing the Roaming Regulation. Recent figures of national telecoms regulators show that competition remains too limited below the price ceilings.

On the basis of an independent cost analysis and taking into account falling termination rates, national regulators have also estimated that the price caps agreed by the European Parliament and the Council in the present EU Roaming Regulation are around €0.08 per minute too high, at both wholesale and retail levels. Figures also show that consumers are currently paying 24% more than the minutes they actually use to make calls, and 19% more for calls they receive. National regulators also recommend including wholesale and retail regulation on roamed SMS in a revised Roaming Regulation, leading to a maximum consumer price of between €0.11 and €0.15 per roamed SMS (excluding VAT).

Finally, on 12 August a new report from the European Regulators Group (ERG), the grouping of the EU's 27 national regulatory authorities, shows that the cost of data roaming is still very high for many consumers. In the first quarter of 2008, a customer using data services paid on average €2.05 per megabyte while roaming with companies from their operator’s group and €5.40 per megabyte for roaming with non-group companies. Italian and Slovak consumers who roam with a non-group company can even pay over €12 per megabyte.