MEPs vote to reduce roaming charges on mobile phones

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By a Newsnet reporter

SNP Member of the European Parliament Alyn Smith has welcomed a vote in the European Parliament on mobile phone roaming rates which will see lower mobile phone charges when calling from abroad.  Despite his guarded welcome, Mr Smith has asserted that a better deal could have been achieved for customers.

Currently mobile phone customers are faced with high bills when using their phones abroad.  The prices imposed by the mobile phone networks are considerably higher than the cost the networks entail for processing such calls.  The discrepancy has led many consumer groups to accuse the phone networks of profiteering.

The European Parliament Industry Committee (ITRE), of which Mr Smith is the only Scottish member, voted for steep cuts to mobile phone roaming charges, though at a relatively modest decrease.

The Industry Committee said that while wholesale roaming service suppliers had cut their prices to match the EU price cap for roaming charges, they must now try to compete below it.

The ITRE backed new rules which from June 2012 could enable clients to buy roaming services from suppliers other than their home service suppliers, and help alternative suppliers to enter the market.

The changes should see the cost of making a call on a mobile phone from abroad drop this year from around 30p per minute to 21p per minute.  Further changes will follow, with the cost of making a call set to fall as low as 13p per minute by 2014.

The cost of sending a text message is due to fall to 7p and data charges will be capped at approximately 40p per megabyte, scheduled to be reduced to approximately 14p per megabyte by 2014.  

Mr Smith said:

“We are stepping in the right direction, though it is slow progress – the reduction to 21p per minute is a considerable cut which should be welcomed.

“I first called for a clampdown on mobile phone roaming charges back in 2006, and this is now the third round of roaming regulation from the EU.  At least the movement is in the right direction.

“A reduction in roaming costs will bring instant benefits to Scots holidaymakers and business travellers alike.  Consumers will save an estimated 5 billion euros a year, leaving more holiday money in peoples’ back pockets.

“I will be following this legislation as it continues at EU level, and will continue to campaign for an end to unfair roaming charges.”