European Commission consults on data roaming charges

The European Commission is moving to ensure consumers pay the same mobile fees no matter where they are in EU countries.

The government organisation’s executive body is now launching a consultation on European Union roaming charges, claiming that a lack of competition has allowed operators to impose unjustifiably high fees for customers who are travelling outside their home countries.

“Huge differences between domestic and roaming charges have no place in a true EU Single Market,” Neelie Kroes, the EU’s commissioner for the digital agenda said.”We need to address the source of current problems, namely a lack of competition, and to find a durable solution,” she added.

The mobile roaming question has been raging for a good few years now. Viviane Reding moved to try to tackle these problems in 2007 by setting caps on the tariffs mobile phone operators can charge for making a call abroad. She has also lowered the prices of text messages to 10 pence and capped data downloads, which included forcing mobile providers to send out a warning when customers reached a £50 download fee. However, the measures are temporary and due to lapse in June 2012.

Commissioner Kroes, who took over the commission’s digital agenda brief early this year, has set a target to fully eradicate the difference between national call charges and roaming charges by 2015.

The Commission is also seeking the views of telecom operators, business users and consumers to find the best way to achieve that target.

The responses will feed into a review of the EU’s roaming rules that the commission will present to EU governments and the European Parliament in June next year.