The European Commission (EC) has announced that in early autumn it intends to present the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union (EU) with a set of proposals on reducing the prices of text messages (SMS) sent from abroad (in roaming), measures which could also include data services (for example, Internet access). The EC will also propose measures to improve the price transparency of roaming, in particular, so that customers who use the Internet in roaming are not confronted by unexpectedly high bills.
The EC bases its position on various facts, especially on data provided by the European Regulators Group (ERG) which shows the variation of prices charged for sending SMSs depending on the nationality of the user and the country from where there are sent. For example, between October 2007 and March 2008, an SMS sent in roaming cost an average of 0.29 euro, but for a Belgian user this figure could be as much as 0.80 euros. Meanwhile a study of the Danish regulator (ITT) shows that the average cost can be ten times higher than that of domestic SMSs, which may be as little as 0.034 euros.
Additionally, the Commission points out that the appeals made by the Commissioner, Viviane Reding, in February 2008, for the sector to lower SMS prices voluntarily have not achieved results. Only one operator from Austria heeded the call of the EC, providing packages of 100 SMSs at 0.10 euro per message in roaming since June 16.
With respect to the prices of data services used in roaming, the EC states that in the case of the Internet access service, according to figures provided by the European Regulators Group (ERG), there are still substantial differences between different European countries, ranging between 0.25 euros per Megabyte (MB) and 16 euros per MB. The Commission warns that the current scenario may lead to ''bill-shocks'', ''particularly for users who are not aware that such prices apply''. The EC believes that these situations arise, on the one hand, because customers are generally used to paying much lower prices when using the Internet in national territory and, on the other because the tariff per Megabyte is not sufficiently transparent, given that users normally fail to keep track in real time of their use in terms of Megabytes.
To encourage transparency in the prices currently charged, and without prejudice to the measures which, with this specific purpose, will be included in its legislative proposal, the EC has launched a new web site dedicated specifically to these issues of SMS and data in roaming. This website will enable consumers to check the price payable for these services when they are outside their home country and in any of the other 26 EU member states.
''Texting without borders'': Commission plans ending roaming rip-offs for text messages abroadhttp://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/08/1144&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en
International roaming tariffshttp://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/roaming/index_en.htm
Press pack - Roaming: Text Messages & Data Serviceshttp://ec.europa.eu/information_society/newsroom/cf/itemdetail.cfm?item_id=4242
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