Industry to fight on as roaming proposals 'watered down'

James Middleton

July 12, 2006

2 Min Read
Industry to fight on as roaming proposals 'watered down'

The mobile industry has pledged to continue its fight against plans to cut roaming charges across Europe following intense lobbying that has, at the very least, bought it some time.

On Tuesday evening, details started to emerge that EU media and IT commissioner, Viviane Reding, had faced stiff opposition to her proposals from fellow ministers, including Peter Mandelson – tade, Gunter Verheugen – enterprise, Neelie Kroes – competition and Charles McGreevy – internal market.

By Wednesday morning it was clear that Reding had succumbed to one of the most concerted lobbying offensives seen in the industry, granting at least another six months to operators before fixing retail prices.

UK newspaper The Guardian, says the EU media and IT commissioner has abandoned plans to scrap all charges for receiving calls while abroad. According to The Guardian, the concession comes after warnings that the costs would be passed onto consumers anyway via handsets and domestic charges.

If the pre-announcement whispers are true, Reding has taken significant steps backwards but it could be argued her threats alone have already prompted change in a market where some operators are believed to have made as much as 400 per cent profit on roaming charges. Critics will, no doubt, remind the Commission that at the beginning of the process – started in 1999 – it had planned to scrap fees for receiving calls in Europe altogether.

Later today Reding will launch her initiative after completion of the “political stage” of the proposal and can expect continued opposition from an industry that has branded the proposals as “draconian” and “unworkable”. Her backtracking is seen as a direct result of the industry’s lobbying, arguing that competition, not regulation, is in the best interests of both the consumer and the telcos.

While her proposal is due to be adopted by the EU’s executive arm on Wednesday, the final say lays with member states and the European Parliament.

European operators are believed to earn Eur8.5bn (£5.9bn) a year from roaming – around 15 per cent of profits.

About the Author(s)

James Middleton

James Middleton is managing editor of | Follow him @telecomsjames

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