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MEPs agree caps on wholesale roaming prices

MEPs in the European Parliament's industry committee have agreed on caps to the wholesale prices that telecoms operators can charge one another for using their networks for roaming calls.01 Dec 2016

This brings the abolition of roaming charges for consumers a step closer, the Parliament said.

EU telecoms providers cut surcharges for roaming phone calls and data use in EU countries from 30 April this year, and roaming charges are due to be completely abolished in June 2017, subject to a 'fair use' policy that the Commission will put in place. The Commission is now considering what the fair use cap might be.

The MEPs were voting on the Commission's draft regulation. They agreed on €0.03 for voice calls, €0.01 for text messages, and a gradually decreasing cap for data use from €4 to €1 per gigabyte. The European Commission had proposed €0.04 for calls, €0.01 for text messages and €0.0085 per megabyte of data, the Parliament said.

"The vote is another step towards the full abolition of retail roaming surcharges, which will enable consumers to use their mobile phones in other EU countries just like at home without paying extra fees. Wholesale roaming prices indirectly affect consumers’ final bills. The agreed caps should instead enable telecoms operators to offer roaming services to their customers without any extra charges on top of the home market price," it said.

The committee's rapporteur Miapetra Kumpula-Natri said: "The Committee has today given a strong mandate for negotiations with member states. Our position has a single aim - delivering ‘Roam Like At Home’ to all Europeans. Setting price caps closer to real cost of providing roaming access will do just that, but will also pave the way for a true gigabyte society by enabling markets to deliver higher data consumption."

Kumpula-Natri and the Parliament's negotiating team will now negotiate with the Council of Ministers on the issue.

It emerged this week that the Commission may propose extra fees for users with unlimited deals or cut-off points after users have used a set amount of data, according to a draft proposal seen by the Financial Times.

Telecoms expert Reg Dhanjal of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com said: "Some European operators will be more concerned by the level of these charges than others. Southern European operators have been pushing for higher wholesale roaming charges because, as a general rule, they have more people roaming on their network than the number of their subscribers roaming on other networks as southern Europe is a popular tourist destination for other Europeans. They are therefore net beneficiaries of wholesale roaming charges. The position is reversed for operators based in northern Europe and they have been pushing for lower wholesale roaming charges as a result."