For quite a few years now, the European Commission has been concerned with mobile phone charges. The 28 member countries have currently each their own providers, networks, regulations, contract terms and prices for their own domestic market. Huge price differences can be observed between countries for call prices and roaming charges.
Cost of calls
Currently the cheaper calls are made in Eastern Europe, with Lithuania charging an average price of 2 cents/min. Benelux is the most expensive (up to almost 15 cents/min in the Netherlands) though, as the Commission highlights, there are not many mountains in the area, which could justify expensive installation costs for phone masts. For the EU there is no reason why prices should be so different from one country to the next.
The aim of the European Commission is to harmonise the mobile telecommunications market to guarantee a fair access to internet and mobile services across the Union for customers by encouraging investments in high speed networks. This is why the EU Commission, led by Neelie Kroes, EU Commissioner for Digital Affairs, is now working on proposals to create a single telecommunications market and according to some sources, may also be considering a single telecoms regulator in Europe.
The telecoms industry is not so keen on the idea.
At present, the focus is on roaming charges which can escalate consumers’ bills especially during holidays. Roaming charges (charges that occur when you make calls or download data from abroad, e.g. checking emails, sending pictures, looking at maps or updating your status on social media sites) have decreased since the introduction of caps last July but are still surprisingly high.
The legislation proposed by the EU Commission aims to harmonise prices with a two-step plan:
- July 2014: Incoming calls will no longer be charged;
- 2016: End of roaming charges within the EU-zone.
This is, as noted by the Commission, “the most ambitious plan in 26 years of the telecommunications market reform.”