European mobile roaming charges to be scrapped
The European Commission (EC) has proposed to scrap all mobile phone roaming charges across Europe, in a move that would see the cost of incoming calls cut next year and all roaming fees scrapped by 2016.
The EC called the proposal "its most ambitious plan in 26 years of telecoms market reform."
EC President Jose Manuel Barroso said: "Further substantial progress towards a European single market for telecoms is essential for Europe's strategic interests and economic progress. For the telecoms sector itself and for citizens who are frustrated that they do not have full and fair access to internet and mobile services."
Under the proposals, incoming call charges while travelling in the 28 member states of the European Union (EU) would be banned from 1 July 2014. It then proposes that the fragmented European telecom markets are merged into a single market by 2016, effectively ending roaming charges.
The EC proposed that mobile network operators such as O2, EE and Vodafone could either offer phone plans that apply everywhere in the European Union or allow their customers to "decouple", or opt for a separate roaming provider who offers cheaper rates (without having to buy a new SIM card).
The proposals were welcomed by consumer group Europeans for Fair Roaming, which has lobbied the EU to reduce roaming prices since 2010.
Group co-ordinator Bengt Beier said: "Consumers have come to rely on the EU on roaming and the EU will have to deliver. We therefore expect that the EU will finally completely abolish roaming charges – and in fact premiums for all cross-border calls.
"It will only be a single market when consumers pay the same for all calls, SMS and internet use, wherever they are in Europe and do not have to think about borders at all. We repeat our demands we made since 2010: free receiving of calls, lower prices for all cross-border calls in the EU and no more than 10 cents a minute or MB."