HOPES that roaming charges would be abolished this year have been dashed as EU ministers backed a plan to keep them until at least 2018.
A proposal to scrap the hated mobile phone charges that can lead to huge bills while on holidays has now been watered down sparking strong criticism.
Consumers Association of Ireland spokesman Dermott Jewell said it was deeply frustrating that the mobile phone industry had pushed plans to end the charges down the line.
"There was a firm commitment by the European Parliament and the Commission last year to end these charges by the end of 2015, so it is deeply frustrating that this plan should fall at the final hurdle. The lobbying efforts of industry to keep them have clearly worked and that's a terrible shame for consumers," he said.
Proposals approved yesterday by the European Council watered down a plan to scrap the charges and instead call for transitional measures.
"Within certain limits to be determined, consumers could make and receive calls, send SMSs and use data services without paying anything extra on top of the domestic fee," the council said in a statement.
"Once this basic roaming allowance is used up, the operator may charge a fee but this fee will be much lower than current charges," it said.
The European Commission would then review the matter in 2018.
Independent MEP Marian Harkin said that the changes to the original much stronger measure were putting the needs of mobile phone companies ahead of consumers.
It currently costs an added 19c to make a call abroad, 5c to get a call, 6c to send a text and 20c per MB to surf the internet.