In the 1970’s, as the world moved towards a cashless society, a popular advertising slogan for a well-known credit card was “don’t leave home without it”. Today, in the world of instant telecommunications, mobile phone users need no such advice. Few leave home without their mobile device. As mobile phones have evolved into smartphones, access to the internet and social media has become easier and cheaper for all. Mobile phones have become an indispensable part of our daily social and business life. Many people could not easily work - or indeed live- without their mobile phones, whether for talking, texting or surfing the internet.
For consumers, greater usage of mobile phones and increased competition between service providers have lowered the cost of making calls. However, recent research by the European Commission has highlighted a huge differential between the cheapest and dearest mobile calls in the 28 member states. The Netherlands is the most expensive place to make a call and Lithuania the cheapest. In Ireland, mobile users pay slightly more than the EU average.
Member states are part of a single market, so why do mobile call costs vary so much between countries? And why is it seven times more expensive to make a mobile phone call in the Netherlands than in Lithuania - a smaller, poorer country with a far less developed economy. The European Commission admits it is mystified by the research findings, and finds the huge price differentials “inexplicable”. Neelie Kroes, as commissioner in charge of telecoms, acknowledges national telecoms markets have not benefited consumers “like a single market would”. She has already had some success in capping roaming charges for users, lowering costs for consumers. Ms Kroes has promised to introduce major reforms next month to ensure the single market can be made to work, as intended. And that is also for the benefit of mobile phone users in all EU member states, and not just for telecom companies to enjoy huge profits at the expense of their customers.