The has unveiled plans to cut the cost of using mobile phones abroad by up to 70 per cent.
‘Roaming’ charges for using a phone abroad are currently up to five times higher than the actual cost to telecoms companies of providing the service.
The commission wants to narrow the gap between domestic call costs on mobiles and much higher international charges for phoning home.
But initial plans to ban the extra cost of receiving mobile phone calls while abroad have been ditched.
If today’s proposals come into force the maximum price for calling home from abroad would be about 35 pence a minute, while the cost of receiving a mobile phone call when travelling elsewhere in the EU would be capped at about 11.5 pence a minute.
The plans need approval from EU governments and Euro-MPs before coming into force, and EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said: ‘I sincerely hope that with the support of the European Parliament and EU governments, prices will come down substantially by summer 2007.’
‘For years mobile roaming charges have remained at unjustifiably high levels in spite of repeated warnings to the industry. This is why Europe needs to act now.
‘The regulation we propose today will transform mobile roaming from being a nuisance for consumers into an attractive service that will encourage both citizens and businesses to profit even more from enhanced mobility within the EU.’
But the mobile operators’ global trade association GSMA dismissed the Commission’s proposals as unnecessary.
‘GSMA believes the proposals would do significant damage to the European roaming market and are not in the interests of consumers.
‘A rigid cap on retail prices on each and every minute of a roaming call will stifle competition, preventing mobile operators from providing bundles of roaming minutes or other innovative tariff packages, which appeal to specific groups of customers and are an important feature of today’s vibrant mobile marketplace.’
Which? Senior Researcher Ceri Stanaway said: ‘The European Commission’s roaming announcement is fantastic news for anyone who’s come back from holiday to be faced with a sky high mobile bill. We wholeheartedly welcome anything that saves consumers from unfair charges and look forward to seeing prices come down.
‘We also hope that the European Commission will keep an eye on the market to make sure prices for other mobile services don’t shoot up when roaming prices are cut.’