European ministers have voted to adopt the European Commissions proposal to put a 49c cap on roaming charges and reduce these charges by up to 70pc.
“For too long consumer complaints that roaming charges were punishing those who cross a border went unanswered,” said EU Telecom Commissioner Viviane Reding.
“National regulators felt powerless as roaming, because of its cross-border nature, went beyond their jurisdiction. My repeated call to operators to lower roaming charges voluntarily was not taken seriously.
“EU leaders at their Brussels summit in March 2006, with the strong support of the European Parliament, had underlined the importance of lowering roaming charges for Europe’s competitiveness. That’s why we listened and acted,” Reding said.
Reding called on the EU Telecom Council to publish the new EU regulation in the days to come. “Millions of EU citizens and business travellers are waiting for lower roaming charges.”
According to Reding, using your mobile phone abroad is on average four times higher than national mobile calls, differences that cannot be explained by the costs for operators.
An Austrian in Malta could pay €10 to call home for four minutes, a Spanish customer roaming in Latvia can pay up to €6.31, a Cypriot roaming in Belgium can pay €12 for the same call home, an Irish customer roaming in Malta could pay as much as €11.96 for a four-minute call home.
A Eurobarometer survey of 24,565 citizens from across the EU returning from their summer holidays found that 70pc supported the EU action to lower charges.
While 15pc of them said they turn their phone off when abroad or don’t take it with them, a later survey by the EU of Irish users found that 78pc of Irish people turn their phones off when travelling in Europe.
Member states like Ireland will still have to formally adopt the rules on 25 June and they will be officially published on the 29 June.
Under the EU’s plan the maximum Eurotariff for calls made while abroad will be 49c from June, reduced to 46c by summer 2008 and 43c by summer 2009.
Under the Eurotariff scheme an Irish customer making a four-minute call home from Malta would no longer have to pay €11.96 but will instead pay a maximum of €2.37 (including Vat, €1.96 excluding Vat).
Reding said that while she was pleased that all European citizens will be able to benefit from the new rates, she challenged all mobile operators to start a race for the most attractive roaming package and even improve on the Eurotariff.
“This would be a clear sign that following this regulatory intervention, Europe’s mobile roaming markets are finally moving towards competition,” Reding said.
By John Kennedy