The final stage in a seven-year series of negotiations, the decision – adopted by the Council on 7 June – is good news for European holidaymakers, who will now be able make significant savings on calls over the summer period.
"This decision paves the way for cheaper roaming rates throughout the EU, a landmark for Europe as it clearly responds to the wishes of consumers," commented Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. Praising Parliament's extraordinary effort in pushing the regulation through in record time, she said: "I call on the Council now to publish the EU regulation in the days to come. Millions of EU citizens and business travellers are waiting for lower roaming charges."
"I am pleased that as from this summer, all citizens of Europe will be able to benefit from the new EU roaming regulation," she added. Calling on all mobile operators to now start a race for the most attractive roaming package, she said: "This would be a clear sign that following this regulatory intervention, Europe's mobile roaming markets are finally moving towards competition."
The GSM Association (GSMA) - which represents more than 700 mobile operators around the world - said the regulation was "unnecessary" and "designed to further a narrow, short-term and populist agenda and run counter to the wider interests of consumers, the business community and ultimately the European Union".
The European Consumers' Organisation BEUC welcomed the news, although it said that tariffs remain "still rather comfortable for operators". "Unfortunately, the price caps are still too high and are not linked to the actual costs for operators," said the group.
Welcoming the move, Fiona Hall MEP – Liberal Democrat Industry Spokesperson – said yesterday's decision means that the regulation will come into force "within a few weeks". "By the end of July all consumers will be free to switch to or from the Eurotariff plan, free of charge. The new rules will bite in time for the August holidays and save holidaymakers a considerable amount of money," she added.
Core elements of the regulation include caps on charges at the wholesale and retail levels, offering clear benefits for all consumers - as well as increased transparency. Outgoing calls will be capped at €0.49 cent (€0.24 for incoming calls) immediately after the regulation is published. A year later (2008), the cap will be lowered to €0.46 (€0.22 for incoming calls), and after another year (2009), it will be lowered again to €0.43 (€0.19 for incoming calls).
At the same time, the wholesale rate that network operators charge each other to connect a call will be limited to €0.30 a minute in the first year and lowered to €0.26 in 2009.