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Better deal for roaming: Commission tackles lack of competition to lower prices for mobile phone users abroad
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A long-term solution to the continued high cost of using mobile phones and other mobile devices whilst travelling in the EU (roaming) has been outlined by the European Commission today. 

The proposed regulation would introduce profound structural measures to boost competition by allowing customers from 1 July 2014 to sign up for a cheaper mobile roaming contract, separate from their contract for national mobile services, but whilst keeping the same phone number.

In addition, from 1 July 2012 mobile operators (including virtual mobile operators who do not have their own network) would have the right to use other operators' networks in other member states at regulated wholesale prices.  This will make it easier for more operators to compete on the roaming market.

    Better deal for roaming: Commission tackles lack of competition to lower prices for mobile phone users abroad

    To cover the period until structural measures become fully effective and competition drives retail prices down, the proposal would progressively lower current retail price caps on voice and texting (SMS) services and introduce a new retail price cap for mobile data services.

    Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda, said: “This proposal tackles the root cause of the problem – the lack of competition on roaming markets – by giving customers more choice and by giving alternative operators easier access to the roaming market. It would also immediately bring down prices for data roaming, where operators currently enjoy outrageous profit margins."

    By 1 July 2014, roaming consumers would pay no more than 24 cents (22 pence) per minute to make a call, a maximum 10 cents (9 pence) per minute to receive a call, maximum 10 cents to send a text message and maximum 50 cents before (45 pence) per megabyte (MB) to download data or browse the Internet whilst travelling abroad (charged per kilobyte used).  All prices exclude VAT.

    Before the measures take effect, the proposal will now be submitted to the European Parliament and EU's Council of Ministers.  Once adopted it would have direct effect in all EU countries.  

    A separate report published by the Commission on the current roaming regulation (expires on 20 June 2012) indicates that it has temporarily reduced prices for roaming phone calls and text messages, but has not remedied the lack of competition in the roaming market, with prices remaining stubbornly close to the retail caps. This confirms findings of the preliminary report published on 30 June 2010 (see IP/10/851).

    The proposal would:

    - introduce a new retail price cap for data roaming (which would remain in force until mid-2016). This would ensure that users of smart phones, tablets and other devices to access the internet through mobile networks could go online whilst abroad without running up huge bills. The Commission proposes that consumers would pay no more than 90 cents (80 pence) per megabyte (MB) downloaded from 1 July 2012, falling very steeply to 50 cents (45 pence) per MB by July 2014.  Such prices would be charged on a kilobyte basis, taking into account effective use.

    The current regulation does not foresee retail price caps for data roaming. Wholesale price caps for data roaming have been in place since July 2009, but savings have not been passed on to the consumer.

    The overall average retail price of €1.06 to download data in another member state at the end of 2010 masks a wide variation in retail prices. For example, it costs consumers an average of €2.23 per MB when downloading abroad on another mobile group's network and in some cases charges reached much higher levels (even as high as €12 per MB).

    - keep retail price caps for roaming voice and text message (SMS). These would gradually decrease for all roaming services and would also remain in force until mid-2016.

    - keep data roaming "bill shock" protection – consumers' and business travellers' monthly bills for data access over mobile networks when abroad would continue to be limited to €50 unless the customer explicitly agreed otherwise.

    - retain caps on wholesale prices between operators for all roaming services until 2022 (voice, SMS and data) in order to create a predictable investment environment for alternative operators. Wholesale price caps could be removed before 2022 if market data indicated that competition had developed sufficiently.


    The proposal addresses the objective set in the Digital Agenda for Europe that differences between roaming and national telecoms tariffs should approach zero by 2015 (see IP/10/581, MEMO/10/199 and MEMO/10/200).

    Current and proposed retail price caps pdf - 10 KB [10 KB]


    For more information, please contact the London press office on 020 7973 1971.
    Please note: all amounts expressed in sterling are for information purposes only.

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    Last update: 06/07/2011  |Top