Kroes slams gaping differences in mobile charges

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EU mobile phone users face huge price differences for the same services, depending on where they live and work, European Commission figures show.

The biggest disparity is in domestic mobile calls – a 774% difference between Lithuania, the cheapest country, and Netherlands, the most expensive.

"As these numbers clearly show, the 28 national telecoms markets in Europe today are not benefiting consumers like a single market would," Neelie Kroes, the commissioner in charge of the digital economy, said in a statement on Tuesday (6 August).

"It is critical for the whole EU to move quickly to build a real single market to achieve a truly connected continent."

The cost differences cannot be explained by differences in quality, the cost to provide service, or consumer purchasing power, she said.

Other categories of goods and services have much lower price differentials across countries. A litre of milk can be bought for between €0.69 and €0.99, a cost difference of 43%, the Commission said. The cost difference between EU countries for an iPad is 11%.

No more roaming charges

Kroes this spring called for an end to mobile roaming charges before the next European elections, and said mobile network operators should no longer be able to block telecommunications services such as Skype.

Speaking to the European Parliament on 30 May, Kroes said she wanted Europeans to be able to see what the EU is doing for them ahead of elections to be held on 22-25 May 2014.

In the speech, Kroes said the EU could deliver a "full, final" legislative package to end roaming charges “around Easter 2014”.

The Commissioner’s proposal would go well beyond previous efforts to cap roaming charges on cross-border calls and messaging.

The European Commission introduced in 2007 a regulation placing caps on prices of cross-border mobile calls in Europe, the so-called roaming regulation.

In July 2011, the Commission proposed a third roaming regulation and announced plans to structurally reform the European market for roaming phone calls slashing wholesale prices and opening access to the market to new service providers.

The measures were supposed to eliminate differences for cross-border phone calls, saying that price caps will be no longer necessary as from 2016.

In June 2007, the European Commission introduced a regulation placing caps on prices of cross-border mobile calls in Europe.

The EU executive's intervention was limited to roaming because domestic calls remain under national authority. The first roaming regulation also excluded text messaging and data. A second regulation entered into force in 2009, introducing further steps to gradually lower caps for voice roaming, together with guarantees against "bill shocks" for data roaming.

In July 2011 the Commission proposed a third roaming regulation and announced plans to structurally reform the European market for roaming phone calls slashing wholesale prices and opening access to the market to new service providers.

The measures are intended to eliminate differences for cross-border phone calls by 2016.

  • Spring 2014:  Neelie Kroes hopes the EU can deliver a "full, final" legislative package to end roaming charges

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