Roaming ceiling charge approved by Euro deputies

BRUSSELS – The setting of limits on cell phone roaming charges has come a step closer after yesterday’s approval of the relevant regulation by the competent committee of the European Parliament, ahead of its full adoption by EU governments on June 7 so that it applies from July. The main point of the proposal tabled by EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding is the setting of a ceiling of 0.40 euros per minute for calls made when abroad and of -0.15 per minute when receiving a call abroad. This limit will apply both to the wholesale market, i.e. the charges that companies impose on one another for transferring a call abroad, and the retail market, although a profit margin of 30 percent will be allowed, as is accepted for national calls. European Commission data from September 2006 showed that charges in Greece are considerably higher than in other EU countries. A four-minute call by a Greek user from France, for example, to Greece now costs between -4.44 and -5, while with the new ceiling it will only cost -1.60. The new, lower roaming charges will automatically apply for all subscribers unless their networks provide them with their option to choose even cheaper packages, which, according to the Commission’s calculations, will lead to a decline in rates as competition will rage among networks. This was an important battle fought among political parties in the European Parliament, as an effort was made not to render automatic the application of the new charges, but have them offered by networks as a special package to any subscriber wanting them. This was rejected, though, at least on a parliamentary committee level. The key question remains whether networks will pass on their significant lost revenues to their subscribers through increased charges for national calls. The Commission believes that the already intense competition in the market will avert that, but has alerted competition authorities to it.

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