Euro MPs back caps on mobile roaming chargesLimits could be enforced by this summer

12 April 2007

A proposal to cap roaming charges for mobile phone calls made abroad has been backed by a key committee of the European Parliament

The panel voted in favour of a ceiling at 40 euro cents (27 pence) per minute of an outgoing call and 15 euro cents (10 pence) per minute for an incoming call.

The EU assembly's industry committee went further than the European Commission and the EU member states, which proposed a cap of 50 euro cents (34 pence) and 25 euro cents (17 pence), respectively.

The EU's executive arm claims network providers are reaping massive profits from unjustifiably high roaming charges that can increase call costs fourfold.

The full 785-seat EU assembly will vote on the proposal in May. By then, politicians need to decide whether an EU-wide cap on roaming charges should be automatic or whether customers would only get it from their operator on request.

Centre-right deputies are in favour of letting consumers who already have a mobile phone subscription decide whether they want to be charged a capped EU-wide roaming tariff or opt to keep their existing packages, which typically have higher roaming fees but lower charges on national calls.

Automatic cap

But the Socialists and the EU's executive office, the European Commission, which drafted the proposal, argue the cap should be automatic and consumers should be able to opt out if their operator offers them a better deal.

Which? Senior Researcher Ceri Stanaway said: 'Which? has been keeping a close eye on the progress of these proposals and it's great that we're now one step closer to seeing consumers protected from unfairly high charges for using their mobile abroad.

'Roaming charges have been unjustifiably high for too long, and although some mobile companies have introduced roaming tariffs, most do not go far enough and many require consumers to pay a fee up front to benefit from lower costs abroad.

'We very much hope that the legislation goes through, and that by this summer people who travel to Europe will no longer run the risk of paying more for their mobile phone bill than they do for their flights.'

The plan is one of the most lobbied pieces of EU legislation in recent years.