EC says mobile ops can charge for receiving calls

Yesterday the European Union's telecoms Commisioner Vivian Reding told European operators that prices for cross-border texts must fall to €0.12 by 1 July. If they don't drop the cost to this level from the current average price of €0.28, she will oblige them to do so. Reding was reported in the Financial Times saying that the Danish government had told it the cost should be €0.05 per text, so she feels if anything she is being "too nice".


Certainly the Commissioner is making some conciliatory noises - at the end of last week she stated that regulation must enable operators to make a fair return on their network investment.


She also said that mobile operators ought to be awarded half the spectrum that will become available as Europe switches from analogue to digital TV - a highly contentious issue in many countries at the moment.


Now, the very day after her threats concerning data roaming, the Commission has said it would not stop mobile operators from charging customers for receiving calls to their mobile phones, according to an AFP report said


"This is for companies to decide. If companies think that this makes their offer particularly attractive, then we will not forbid it, but we will also not force companies to move to that,' telecoms spokesman Martin Selmayr said, quoted by the report.


He added that the Commission would not be imposing any so-called 'bill and keep' business model on them: Europeans pay to make mobile calls, but are generally only charged for receiving them when abroad.


Users elsewhere, in the US and some parts of Asia, notably China, pay for both even for domestic calls. In the EU, telecoms companies bill each other via a mobile termination charge for calls made between any two networks, which is passed on to customers.


The Commission wants to cut the mobile termination charge across the 27 EU nations to a level that would encourage mobile phone operators to 'move to a less bureaucratic system of bill-and-keep in the long run," explained Selmayr.


Arguably the success of last year's Euro-tariff (the Commission imposed a price cap on intra-EU roaming charges for phone calls) has been eroded by the fact that the cost of calls to the EU from outside it have soared, in Africa's case by up to 163%, according to a report from Informa. Reding has no authority outside the EU.


Clearly operators are casting about for other means of making up the lost revenue in the wake of price caps on roaming charges and billing customers to receive calls in their own country could be a revenue stream.



However, national regulators could forbid the practice - Reding failed in her bid to establish a pan-European telecoms regulator that could override national regulators and to instigate law changes to convert the EU to a more effective single market.


And of course, consumers are at liberty to make their feelings known if they don't want to pay for receiving calls - they can always go elsewhere.