Update 3 April 2006: The European Commission has today released a 20-page document constituting the Second Phase Consultation on a "Proposal for a Regulation (EC) of the European Parliament and of the Council on mobile roaming services in the Single Market".
This new document contains the European Commission's arguments to justify regulatory intervention, and -importantly- adds that its proposed intervention includes a principle that a customer roaming abroad (inside the EU) and calling her/his home (EU) country would pay the price of an international call from the home country to the country in question.
T-REGS Note: The implication of this additional element is that mobile network operators and MVNOs would be unlikely to be in a position to sell competitively priced subscriptions and call packages outside their EU Member State into other EU Member States.
The new document also outlines the expected contents of the European Commission's forthcoming impact assessment, and provides a synthesis of the responses received to the first phase of consultation.
The full text of the consultation document can be accessed by clicking here. The deadline for responses is now set at 12 May 2006.
At a press conference held today, Commissioner Vivane Reding, flanked by Kip Meek, chairman of the European Regulators Group (ERG), confirmed the intention of the European Commission to seek the adoption of a Regulation on international mobile roaming charges in the EU.
For the first time, some preliminary details on the exact nature of the proposed regulatory interventions were made public, and opened for consultation. These are as follows:
• Cost-orientation of wholesale charges applicable between mobile network operators. The exact wording of the announcement is: "The EU regulation would ensure that operators do not charge operators from other countries substantially more than the actual cost".
• Retail tariff regulation is deemed necessary to ensure that operator savings at the wholesale level are actually passed on to consumers.
No further details were released on the nature or extent of the retail regulations envisaged, but the targets were expressed as follows:
Receiving calls abroad: The European Commission stated explicitly that: "The new EU regulation could in particular eliminate all roaming charges for receiving a call when traveling abroad in the EU".
Making calls abroad: The European Commission stated that: "The new EU regulation could introduce the “home pricing” principle. A mobile customer travelling abroad in the EU would always be charged only the prices that he is used to paying in his country of residence: he would either pay a local tariff when making a local call, regardless of where he is traveling in the EU (e.g. for calling a cab while traveling in Madrid); or a normal international tariff for calls made to EU destinations, regardless of where he is traveling in the EU (e.g. for calling the family back home while on holidays)".
An additional period of consultation on these proposals is provided. The deadline for responses is 28 April 2006.
T-REGS Note: The ERG does not appear to share the European Commission's views to the full extent. Specifically, it envisages regulation only at the wholesale level, combined with measures to achieve retail pricing transparency, but not retail price regulation as such (at least not initially). Today, the ERG published its own 3 proposals to address international mobile roaming charges. These are as follows:
1) A single Europe-wide cap on wholesale roaming charges should be applied. The ERG has suggested one possible mechanism for setting the cap, which would lead to reductions in average wholesale roaming charges of around 60%.
2) An index of retail international roaming charges should be built and maintained, with operators required to supply appropriate data on a regular basis. This would allow a transparent view as to whether cost reductions at a wholesale level are flowing through to retail prices, offering a snapshot as to how much consumers are benefiting from the Regulation.
3) Should the index show that wholesale cost reductions are not reflected in lower retail prices, there may be a need for some form of retail price control.