Half of consumers now have lower phone fees"”EU

Half of European consumers are already enjoying lower fees for calling home from the beach because their phone operators met a deadline for offering a new EU price cap,

European Union regulators, quoted by an Associated Press report, said.

The Associated Press report said the EU named on its web site telecoms companies that did, and did not, meet a July 30 deadline to offer customers a new euro tariff. The new tariff bans charges of more than 49 euro cents ($0.67) a minute for making calls, and 24 euro cents ($0.32) before sales tax for receiving calls, outside their home country.

Operators have a month to actually switch customers to the new tariff after offering them the choice of the new tariff or their existing price plan, the report said.

Based on information supplied by the companies, regulators said Cyprus' Cytamobile was the only company to flout the law by not planning to offer the new fee plan until August 30, one month too late.

The Associated Press report quoted EU spokesman Martin Selmayr as saying that the Cypriot regulator would check this with the company. He said it was possible Cyta had not understood or answered the EU's questionnaire correctly, because the company had told regulators only that it would make the offer by Aug. 30.

Others missed the deadline by mere days: Bulgaria's Mobitel made the offer on July 31 and Slovenia's Tusmobil on August 1, the report said.

The European Commission also criticized those who had failed to respond to its request for information, among them: O2, T-Mobile and Virgin Mobile in Britain; O2 in Germany; Tele2 in Sweden; and all mobile phone companies in Latvia.

Hours after the EU web site went live, nine companies, including O2, Tele2, T-Mobile and Italy's Wind, called Brussels to say they had obeyed the law but had failed to inform EU regulators, the report said.The EU price ceilings will drop further by 2009, it added.