Summer roaming cap unlikely with EP proposal

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Telecoms operators are likely to get a summer reprieve, worth hundreds of millions of euros in revenue this year, under a compromise proposal on mobile phone roaming charges put forward by EU lawmakers on Thursday. The final compromise, backed by all factions in the European Parliament, would give the telecoms industry three months’ grace before EU-wide caps on charges for cross-border mobile calls are automatically put in place, lawmakers said. The European Union legislature has been working out details of a regulation with the executive European Commission and member states, but they failed to reach agreement in two days of talks and a vote scheduled for next week has been delayed. EU institutions disagree on maximum levels for cross-border mobile charges and on whether they should apply automatically to all, as Parliament and the Commission wanted, or only to customers who request it, as member states say. «Our major concession is that we are ready to give operators time before the (capped) euro tariff applies automatically. That is the only concession we can give,» said Joseph Muscat, one of two lawmakers steering the regulation through parliament. «All the political groups presented the package,» said the second lawmaker, Paul Ruebig, pointing to a consensus after Parliament was split for months over the rules. «It’s clear that we won’t have a vote (next week). Time is running out,» he told Reuters in a break in the talks, adding that a vote is more likely in the week starting May 21. The compromise would oblige operators to inform their customers of the regulated tariff and ask whether they would like to switch. A summer reprieve would be crucial for telecom operators such as Vodafone, Deutsche Telecom and Telefonica, whose top lines get a boost from the charges customers pay to make and receive calls abroad.