EU members OK lower roaming fees

Consumers claimed a victory as EU governments agreed to cut the cost of using mobile phones abroad, paving the way for a cap on roaming fees to be introduced later this summer, an Associated Press report said.

The report said EU travelers could first notice a difference when they slip over a border in August, their phone will beep, telling them how much a call home will cost.

And when they return, they could see their phone bill cut by up to 70% compared to the last time they phoned friends or family from the beach.

Lawmakers and governments fast-tracked the new rules in a record 10 months despite heavy lobbying from telecom companies worried about losing profits, even though lower rates may also encourage more people to call more often, the Associated Press report said. 

The prospect of pleasing voters won over 14 EU nations that had opposed the law last December and that all 27 voted for it, the report said.

But the telecom industry reacted with dismay, saying retail price regulation had no place in a free-market society, the report said.

It has warned that lower roaming revenues could hurt future investment and force companies to raise fees in other sectors, such as for domestic calls.

The Associated Press report quoted Ovum telecom analyst Matthew Howett as saying that companies had softened the blow by arguing for a clause that gives customers two months to opt for the new cap.

And they may eventually gain as more people feel more free to use their phones abroad, the report said.