EU seen 'softening' stance on roaming rates

The EU's consumer-friendly attack on the "unjustified" high cost of using a mobile phone abroad had hit roadblocks as regulators debated changes to a plan that would set a limit on how much phone companies could charge for roaming, an Associated Press report said.

The report said that under pressure from phone companies, the European Commission retreated from its original plan to eliminate all charges for receiving calls abroad and end extra fees for foreign roaming charges, which they had called incompatible with a borderless EU internal market.

The EU head office would meet to unveil the bill under which roaming charges would continue, although capped at a 30% profit margin, and charges for receiving calls would remain but would also be limited, the report said.

"We need to be friendly to the industry," said an EU official, who spoke on condition of anonymity since the bill was still being drafted. "Their profits on roaming charges should be comparable to that on their domestic markets."

The report said that when EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding on February first talked of tackling roaming charges, the idea was that it should cost Europeans no more to make a phone call from abroad than from home and to end the riot of call rates that few consumers understood.

Mobile phone companies had warned that a "regulatory straitjacket" could force them to offer services at a loss, cut revenues by more than 4.3 billion euros ($5.5 billion) and investments by 500 million euros ($639 million), the report said.