Viviane Reding, the scourge of Europe's mobile operators, is flexing her muscles again and pushing the European Parliament to vote for a raft of new legislation and regulation that will cut the costs subscribers have to pay for texting whilst roaming.
Further reductions in the price of data and voice calls would also follow if, as seems highly likely, the new measures are voted through. They would become law by July next year.
Ms. Reding has been, and remains, steadfast in her determination to slash what she regards as the unacceptably high charges mobile operators levy on consumers when they roam outside the confines of their home nations. She began her ongoing campaign back in 2005 and targeted voice calls in 2007. The Commissioner has since become the European mobile industry's most reviled and feared critic.
And now that she is turning her attention to texting and 3G web-browsing, mobile operators will get the opportunity to ramp-up their anti-regulatory rhetoric to stentorian levels once again.
With effect from next summer, the European Commission (EC) intends to cap the SMS roaming fee for all EU member states at €0.11 per message. For UK subscribers roaming abroad this will equate to a price cut of some 60 per cent, with the cost of an average roaming text being reduced from 23 pence to just 9 pence.
Back in 2007 Commissioner Reding told the European mobile carriers that they would have to address what she described as the "rip-off" and "extortionate" prices charged to subscribers for using roaming services and dismissed the operator's rationale for maintaining high roaming tariffs as "fantasy costs having no relationship to - or basis in - reality."
She placed a deadline on the operators by which time they were required voluntarily to reduce the costs of texting and browsing. However, the deadline passed on July 31 this year with no agreements in place and so the EC is now moving to impose by legislative fiat what could not be put into place by voluntary means.
Reding commented that "self-regulation has failed and prices remain far too high. The 2.5 billion text messages sent every year by roaming customers in EU countries cost 10 times more than domestic messaging and this is unacceptable."
In another body blow to the mobile network owners, Viviane Reding also confirmed that the voice roaming regulation regime that had been due to end next summer will now be extended until 2013 at the earliest and confirmed that maximum roaming fees will continue to be compulsorily cut by € 0.03 per year for at least the next five years. The proposed new regulations will be announced as official EU policy this very day.
The proposals for further reductions in the cost of making roaming voce calls will, by 2013, require operators to reduce tariffs to a maximum of €0.34 per minute for consumers making calls and €0.10 per minute for receiving them. Meanwhile, the wholesale mobile data roaming fee will be cut to a maximum of €1 per Megabyte (currently it's €4 per Mb) and consumers will be able to set cost limits on data downloads for themselves.
One of the biggest and most frequently voiced complaints against the European mobile operators has been that the tariff rates for roaming data services mired in complexity and are far from transparent and accessible. There is continued concern that, as users have little or no control over the amount of data downloaded in any given circumstance or application, the extremely high cost of downloading data only becomes apparent to a customer when the monthly bill drops through the letterbox - and then it is a majorand expensive shock.
The strange noises emanating this morning from places such as Newbury, Madrid, Paris, Rome, Berlin and the headquarters of other mobile operators across the length and breadth of the EU, as counterpoint to consumer's applause, are the sound of the gnashing of senior management teeth and the rending of director's loincloths.
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