Europe moves to cut text roaming ‘rip-off’

15 Jul 2008

European telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding (pictured) said she wants new legislation to cut the cost of text messaging as people travel within the EU.

The Commission has today launched a new website which shows how much all EU domestic operators charge customers for texting abroad.

According to the European Regulators’ Group (ERG), the average cost of a roaming text message in the EU between October 2007 and March 2008 was €0.29, but can be as high as €0.80 for Belgian mobile users.

Texting from an Irish mobile abroad costs between €0.29 and €0.39 per message.

“EU citizens should be free to text across borders without being ripped off,” said EU Telecoms Commissioner, Viviane Reding.

“Roaming charges have already drained the wallets of mobile customers too much, especially the 77pc of young people who send texts while using their mobile abroad.

“It is not a good sign for the competitiveness of Europe’s mobile industry that it still hasn’t got the message that credible price reductions are needed to avoid regulation. I will therefore recommend to my fellow commissioners that we propose a regulation of SMS roaming in October. We will also have to discuss in which way to address data roaming, which continues to be heavily overpriced,” Reding said.

Calls from the European Commission on the mobile phone industry for self-regulation and voluntary reductions of prices have not been answered. A proposal for measures to cap the cost of text roaming is expected to be sent to the European Parliament and the Council in the early Autumn.

“In the view of the ERG, a price cap between €0.11 and €0.15 per SMS would be appropriate,” said Dániel Pataki, chairman of the European Regulators’ Group.

“On data roaming, we will have to continue to assess the need for additional regulation. We call on the industry to be vigilant on data roaming prices so that price regulation can be ruled out in the future. The ERG is also concerned that lower wholesale charges for data roaming should be available to smaller and newer operators.”

The Commission’s new roaming website shows that while an Estonian on holidays in Cyprus might pay as little as €0.07 to send a text, a British mobile user could pay €0.63 to send a text from Italy. A new study by the Danish regulator (National IT and Telecom Agency) shows that costs paid by operators are negligible (€0.008).

Prices for data services while roaming still range from €0.25 per MB to over €16 per MB (IP/08/1048). High wholesale rates prevent smaller operators and operators from smaller EU countries from offering more competitive data packages to their customers.

By John Kennedy