EU agrees mobile roaming fees


The European Commission, MEPs and governments have reached agreement to reform mobile roaming fees, allowing consumers to pay less for calls, texts and mobile Web services when travelling abroad, in a measure that could hit telecom industry profits.

The deal announced today is expected to be approved by the European Parliament in May and would take effect in July.

The agreement sets roaming fees and the pace of their decline in the coming years at compromise levels between those of an initial proposal by the executive European Commission and tougher levels proposed by the parliament in February.

The reform, likely to erode revenues at Europe's big telecom groups such as France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom, also aims to increase competition by allowing consumers to choose their mobile operator when they cross borders.

In effect, the move creates a new market for roaming services instead of requiring people to use their home-country operator.

EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes, who took on the sector when calls for voluntary reductions were considered not good enough, said this afternoon:

“Consumers are fed up with being ripped off by high roaming charges. The new roaming deal gives us a long-term structural solution, with lower prices, more choice and a new smart approach for data and Internet browsing. The benefits will be felt in time for the summer break — and by summer 2014, people can shop around for the best deal.”

MEPs haggled for nine months over how much they could reduce roaming costs. The final prices are much lower than the Commission's initial proposal made in July 2011. Under the new deal, charges on calls made while travelling in other EU countries cannot exceed 29 cents per minute and calls received while outside the home country should cost no more than 8 cents per minute.

Sending a text message while away has a ceiling charge of 9 cents per minute and accessing the internet of 70 cents per megabyte.

By 2014 these caps should go down by almost another third except internet costs, which would drop to 20 cents per megabyte.