Reding comes under internal pressure on roaming charges

Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding is being pressed by fellow commissioners to water down her proposal to regulate the fees mobile phone users have to pay when placing or receiving a call abroad.

Enterprise and Industry Commissioner Günter Verheugen and Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson oppose Reding’s roaming charges plan, the Financial Times reports. The paper says the two commissioners want to delete the regulation of retail-level roaming charges from the proposal, considering regulation at the wholesale level as sufficient for bringing down also customer prices. 

In a speech held on 29 June 2006, Reding argued that since roaming customers enter into a business relation with a company they have not chosen themselves, competition does not work and regulation has to come in. “In addition”, she said, “given the cross border nature of the problems, any type of legislative intervention by Member States would be ineffective and would risk giving rise to divergent results across the Community.”

The telecommunication industry, which is estimated to make up to 15% of profits from roaming charges, has lobbied heavily against Reding’s roaming plans, arguing that it would cut in on the competitiveness of a sector which might otherwise act as a motor for the growth of the European economy. 

A number of major players on the market have already committed to lowering roaming prices out of their own initiative. Consumer organisations like the French UFC – Que choisir support Reding, citing figures according to which telecommunication operators’ profit margins on roaming are up to 80%.  

Mandelson and Verheugen are expected to take on Reding at the Commission’s next meeting, on 12 July 2006, in Brussels. 

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