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EU Parliament aims for roaming accord by July

The European Parliament plans a fast-track approval of price caps on international mobile-telephone calls in a bid to have the legislation in place by July, said a member sponsoring the legislation.

The European Union assembly aims to vote on the draft law in May so EU telecommunications ministers can give their verdict the following month, said Paul Ruebig, an EU lawmaker from Austria. Both sides want to resolve differences before the votes to cut short a legislative procedure that can take years, he said. „There's a 50% chance of completing it before the summer,” Ruebig, who belongs to the European People's Party, the Parliament's biggest political group, said in an interview yesterday at the assembly's headquarters in Strasbourg, France.

The European Commission, the 27-nation EU's executive arm, last July proposed putting price caps on both wholesale and retail roaming fees. The proposal follows years of warnings by Viviane Reding, the EU telecommunications commissioner, that mobile-phone operators were overcharging their customers. Companies including Vodafone Group Plc, Telefonica SA and Deutsche Telekom AG's T-Mobile International say the regulation isn't necessary because they're already reducing prices. Under Reding's plan, travelers who make a call in the country they are visiting would pay no more than €0,33 ($0.43) a minute, calls to their home nations would cost a maximum 49 cents a minute and receiving a call abroad would cost a maximum of 16.5 cents a minute.

The current average charge for calls made while roaming is charge of €1.15 a minute, according to the commission. The EU plan to regulate tariffs „is massively supported by the population,” Ruebig said. „We have 150 million people who are active in roaming. European citizens are expecting a clear regulation before the summer.” Some Parliament members want the price caps to cover text messaging, also known as Short Message Services, or SMS, and data services. Ruebig said he opposes SMS and data regulation and wants „only full transparency” for these services. (Bloomberg)