MEP proclaims end of roaming prices in EU ‘closer than ever before’

Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola ‘optimistic’ about short future for expensive roaming prices inside Europe.

Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola
Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola

Nationalist MEP Roberta Metsola said she was optimistic that incentives provided for in the new European Commission proposal on telecommunications will soon lead to the end of mobile phone roaming premiums in Europe.

"We are not there yet, but this new proposal is a huge step forward and we are closer than ever before to provide the incentives that will end these outrageous roaming prices that consumers are made to pay when travelling with their mobile phone in the European Union," Metsola said.

The European Commission this week issued its proposal for a regulation on a single market for telecommunications which, if adopted, would affect the whole sector and in particular aims to phase out roaming charges across the EU. These measures would remove charges for incoming calls while roaming, as well as unjustified surcharges for intra-EU calls. They would incentivise the market conditions that should lead to a rapid phasing out of roaming charges in Europe altogether and will introduce new common consumer protections.

The Commission wants to ban incoming call charges while travelling in the EU by 1 July 2014, and its proposals would see companies having to either phone plans that apply everywhere in the EU, or allow customers to opt for a separate roaming provider who offers cheaper rates, without having to buy a new SIM card.

Consumers will be able to choose a different operator every time they travel to a new EU country if they are not happy with the prices their operator is providing in a similar way that people can choose a Wi-Fi network today.

"This is still the initial proposal. There are tough negotiations ahead. The proposal could still be clearer as to how this would work in practice. It is still too complex in some places but the framework to finally end roaming is there and I am looking forward to the negotiations on the proposal within the European Parliament. I am optimistic and will work to ensure that the final package will truly reflect what European consumers want and deserve. This is one barrier that we can and we should break down," Metsola said.

The European Parliament has always been at the forefront of ensuring that consumers get the very best out of the European Union and has already legislated for mobile phone roaming tariffs to be brought down drastically.

"The National Statistics Office figures show that there are some 554,651 mobile telephone subscriptions in Malta. The EU has achieved retail price reductions across calls, SMS and data of over 80% since 2007 and prices were reduced again last July and will be brought down again in July 2014. I have argued that this is not enough and have not heard any convincing arguments to justify the difference in prices in different EU Member States," Metsola said.

The Member States and the European Parliament will now enter into intensive negotiations on the proposal. Should everything go according to schedule, there could even be a final legislative package in place before the end of the legislature in May 2014.