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Kóka says Hungary's mobile roaming tariffs must be cut swiftly

Hungarian Economy Minister János Kóka on Tuesday warned telecommunication firms not to drag their heels over introducing new lower roaming tariffs in line with European Union legislation.

Kóka’s call came as Vodafone Hungary announced it was reducing its roaming tariffs for mobile phone calls made within the 27-nation EU from August 1. Chief executive György Beck said Vodafone would almost halve the charge for calls made from one EU member state to another to Ft 144 (€0.57) per minute gross and would also slash the cost of calls received to Ft 70.8 per minute. Vodafon clients will get the new roaming prices automatically from tomorrow.

Hungary's other two mobile companies T-Mobile and Pannon GSM announced similar cuts last week, but their new tariffs will be effective only from August 29. Under new EU rules, telecoms companies have until today to offer customers a new pricing structure, with cheaper fees for making and receiving calls when traveling in the EU.

The EU has warned that it will name and shame companies who have not offered a new tariff by the deadline. After two months, all mobile phone users who have not expressed a preference will then be switched to the new EU tariff. Kóka, however, said that customers should be able to take advantage of the price cuts as soon as possible instead of having to wait until the end of September before being handed a reduction.

The new EU rules set a price cap in the first year of €0.49 per minute for making mobile phone calls abroad. Receiving a call, when being outside the home country, will cost €0.24 in the first year. Vodafone's charges, minus Hungary's 20% value-added tax (VAT) rate, fall within these limits. By 2009, the price ceilings will fall to €0.43 for outgoing calls when abroad and €0.19 for incoming calls. Prices for using mobile phones abroad will be regulated for three years.

The EU hopes that by the end of that period, charges will be lower and the market more competitive. Kóka also said he would also ensure that companies did not hike charges for domestic calls to compensate for lost revenue. „I have asked the telecommunications authority to make sure that service providers do not make up for their profit losses through increasing charges for domestic calls,” he told MTI news agency. (; Gazdasági Rádió)