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EU Parliament members split on regulating retail roaming prices

European Parliament members are divided on whether mobile-phone operators should be given more time to lower prices for international mobile-telephone calls before adopting a new regulation that forces them to cut fees.

The European Commission, the 27-nation EU’s executive arm, has proposed price caps on wholesale and retail roaming fees. The proposal follows years of warnings by Viviane Reding, the EU telecommunications commissioner, that mobile-phone operators overcharged customers. The parliament’s industry committee debated whether both caps are necessary today in Brussels. „We shouldn’t just think of how to attract media attention by showing the good things we’re doing for consumers, but we should think about how we affect industry,” Werner Langen, a German Christian Democrat member of the parliament said. „Our aim shouldn’t be to regulate retail.”
The legislation must be approved by European governments and the parliament. It would impose a maximum fee that operators such as Vodafone Group Plc, Telefonica SA and Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile International could charge for making and receiving calls abroad. Operators argue that fees are already falling. Other parliament members support the commission’s plan for retail-price regulation. „The problem is that there’s been an abuse of the free market,” said Eluned Morgan, a UK socialist. „We as politicians need to step in and say enough is enough. We’ve given these companies a chance and they’ve reacted and the prices haven’t come down enough.”

European governments and the parliament are working to approve the legislation by July so it’s in place before the summer holidays, Frank Krueger, a German government representative, told the Parliament committee. „We’re optimistic,” Krueger said. „We think that we’ll arrive at a political agreement in the first half of the year.” Paul Ruebig, who belongs to the European People’s Party and is responsible for steering the regulation through parliament, has proposed a so-called „euro tariff” that would allow consumers to chose a maximum rate for making and receiving calls in addition to an operator’s calling package. Fabio Colasanti, director general of the commission’s telecom department, agreed with the euro tariff as long as consumers are automatically enrolled. He said retail regulation is needed because companies have failed to pass wholesale price cuts on to consumers. (Bloomberg)