Roaming charges within the EU are set for a sharp fall if recommendations made by the European Commission are ratified.
Current caps on roaming charges for phone calls are due to expire on June 30, 2012 and policy makers in Brussels are attempting to put in place further caps to prevent charges climbing back to pre-2007 levels, when regulation was first introduced. Currently there is a cap of 31p-a-minute on calls made (excluding VAT) but regulators hope to cut that to 24p-a-minute by 2014 through a series of reductions.
There is currently no cap on roaming charges for data and this is one area where the European Commission is looking to regulate. Currently the only limiting factor on data charges while downloading is a £45 general cap on consumption that networks are force to impose on users – however this limit can still be lifted by customers. The EU is planning on capping the cost per MB to 45p by July 2014.
The European Commission also wants to allow users to change providers when they travel to a different country but retain their number. It would allow for "virtual" operators, which do not have their own networks, to enter the roaming market and increase competition.
"This proposal tackles the root cause of the problem - the lack of competition on roaming markets - by giving customers more choice and by giving alternative operators easier access to the roaming market," said Neelie Kroes, European Commission Vice President for the Digital Agenda. "It would also immediately bring down prices for data roaming, where operators currently enjoy outrageous profit margins."
The Commission hopes the proposals will be given the go-ahead by the European Parliament and Council of Ministers by next year. Looking further ahead the Commission is hoping calls across the EU will cost the same as domestic calls as soon as 2015.