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Roaming: 400 million callers benefiting from EU tariff cap

A workshop on the implementation of the EU’s roaming regulation took place on Tuesday in the European Parliament.

Hosted jointly by the Internal Market and Industry Committees, experts and MEPs made a largely positive assessment of the regulation’s effects during the first months since its entry into force. Arlene McCarthy (PES, UK), Chair of the Committee on Internal Market, opened the workshop by noting that “the regulation is having positive effects and that its implementation is working very well”, an evaluation shared by all panellists.

Customers were making “up to 57% savings when making calls and up to 60% when receiving a call,” said Peter Rodford of the Commission. „Some operators are offering prices below the caps,” he noted. Roberto Viola, Secretary General of the European Regulators Group (ERG), confirmed that “in a number of Member States, e.g. in Austria and The Netherlands, prices were beating the Eurotariff.” Viola went on to estimate that “95% of European customers are on the Eurotariff and 5% have chosen a special tariff.”

Concern was expressed regarding some shortcomings on transparency requirements, such as informing customers about the new tariffs, as well as alleged increases in the price of text messages or domestic calls. However, said Viola, “our check has not shown a consistent price change. There are normal price movements, with no evidence that these are related to the roaming regulation”. Most of the panellists present confirmed his findings.

Lower costs, more calls made
The „welcome text messages” containing information on the price of roaming calls, to be sent to all customers crossing borders, were seen as positive. “There still isn’t 100% compliance in this area, but we believe that a great majority are receiving them”, with some small operators still having problems, said Jim Niblett of the ERG. The regulation is also bearing fruit for mobile operators, as some are seeing increases in calls made.

„We think that traffic will increase a lot in the next months, when awareness of customers increases and when prices go down,” said Marc van Asbroeck, chief regulatory officer at Base. Jacek Nieweglowski, chief strategy officer of P4 Poland, said “we have had a fantastic sales season shortly after introducing the Eurotariff. We have seen a three-fold increase of roaming traffic to non-holiday destinations.”

A win-win situation for customers and industry
Levi Nietvelt, economic officer at BEUC, said there had been a “very positive assessment of the regulation on the consumer side.” On a scale from 1 to 10, he said, European consumers had assessed their satisfaction with the law at an average of 7.8. According to participants, elements contributing to the success of the regulation included a balanced regulatory approach, excellent cooperation with EU Institutions and national authorities, as well as very good supervision and monitoring of implementation.

Wrapping up, Paul Rübig (EPP-ED, AT), the EP rapporteur on roaming, underlined that the EU’s aim is also to help the telecoms sector “be as competitive as possible. Our goal is to get a win-win situation for customers and industry.” At a press conference which followed the workshop, Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding declared the regulation (as well as its impact) “a real success story”.

Recalling fears that the roaming law would result in operators going bankrupt, she noted that many were now making even more money that in the pre-Eurotariff era. Indeed, she noted, call traffic was rising significantly. “People are no longer afraid to use their phones abroad,” she explained. (EP Press)