Government must press for roaming cap

13 March 2012

Mobile phone roaming charges are “unacceptably high” according to a House of Lords Committee which heard evidence from mobile phone companies and consumer groups last week.

The House of Lords EU Sub-Committee on the Internal Market, Energy and Transport Committee has today written to Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications & Creative Industries, outlining its views on proposals from the European Commission to lower mobile phone roaming charges within the EU. The key points made by the Committee are:

  • Current roaming charges are “unacceptably high” and are deterring consumers from accessing increasingly important smartphone services while abroad;
  • Proposals for retail and wholesale price caps are welcomed as a means of driving down costs for the consumer, but a margin between those caps that allows for innovation and competition to thrive has to be retained;
  • The goal for the long-term must be the reduction of regulation on retail price caps and the introduction of more sustainable structural solutions. Price caps are the means, not the end, to a truly competitive marketplace; and
  • Most importantly, consumers need to be at the heart of all developments. Mobile phone operators need to ensure that charges are clear, and that consumers are given all the information they need to understand them.

Baroness O’Cathain, Chairman of the Committee which conducted the evidence session, said:

“For too long consumers have been left in the dark as to roaming charges, leading to ‘bill shock’ when people use their phones abroad. The industry will not reduce its prices voluntarily, and the EU needs to keep up its system of price caps in order to drive costs down. But retail price caps are only an interim solution: the EU must put in place more sustainable solutions, and by doing so develop a truly competitive marketplace in the longer-term. If they do, then we can finally start to see the consumer being put first in an area where their interests have too often been neglected.”

The full letter, along with previous correspondence on the proposal, can be found on the Committees webpage here (PDF PDF 1.05 MB).