European Commission “digital agenda” vice-president Neelie Kroes has branded operators’ roaming profits in Europe as “outrageous.” The Commission wants to cut costs for citizens travelling outside their own country but within Europe. According to the BBC today, lower price caps could come into force in stages to July 2014.
By then, it seems, mobile phone customers would be able to separate their national and overseas contracts and shop around, using one number and switching to alternative foreign operators in order to take advantage of local charges. This is particularly important for roaming data which is hideously expensive and is the main reason many Europeans carry a number of national pay-as-you-go SIM cards for use abroad.
With the free passage of goods and services across the EU, it is an anachronism that mobile operators should restrict bundled data and call services to just one country, giving them the opportunity to charge ridiculously inflated tariffs to unsuspecting travellers. Eventually, I believe, we should expect to have one contract and one number which could be used in any European country on the same tariffs as those enjoyed at home. But don’t hold your breath as the mobile operators fight a rearguard action to squeeze the last few pennies out of us.