EC loses its bid to scrap mobile 'roaming' charges by 2014
A bid to scrap all mobile phone 'roaming' charges by 2014 was defeated last night, as a war of words broke out between the European Commission and Vodafone over a continued crackdown on the sector.
Compulsory maximum roaming rates were first imposed on mobile network operators nearly five years ago to tackle what the commission called the 'roaming rip-off' -- the operators were said to be making profits of more than 200pc for mobile calls made while in another EU country, and 300pc or 400pc for calls received.
Today the gap between domestic and 'roaming' call charges has fallen by about 75pc compared with 2007, with Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes vowing to reduce the gap to "almost nothing" by 2015.
Now a committee of MEPs has rejected pressure to eliminate the difference by 2014, recommending instead another round of charge cuts this summer.
Meanwhile, Ms Kroes rounded on Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao who yesterday called for a "moratorium on regulation" in the telecoms sector, warning that mobile phone companies would cut investment in networks unless the EU stopped imposing price cuts.
Ms Kroes responded in a statement saying: "Message to Vittorio and Vodafone: I call your bluff, and indeed do not respond well to threats.
"I take the side of the Vodafone customer.
"Remember, if consumers lose their fear of using their smartphones and tablets when travelling across Europe, operators will benefit as well."
Action by Brussels against high roaming charges has been one of the most popular consumer-driven moves by the EU but it has complained that putting a price cap on charges has not removed the problem of open competition because operators all generally charge at the top of the price cap.
In his speech yesterday at a Mobile World Congress, Mr Colao demanded: "Does Europe need employment or does Europe need rate cuts? We should stop having this continuous intervention on prices."