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EU Consumers Fury at Data Roaming " Rip-Off"

The EU is set to take action over "rip-off" data roaming charges after research showed three quarters of consumers worried about mobile costs when travelling abroad.

The fact that fewer than one in five European consumers thought data prices in Europe were fair sparked EU vice president Neelie Kroes to renew threats to take action against mobile operators.

"Consumers feel there is still much room for improvement, particularly for data roaming," Kroes said. "As I promised in the Digital Agenda for Europe, I intend to ensure better roaming solutions for European citizens and businesses."

The results of the research, plus a recently-closed public consultation on the future of roaming regulations, will feed into the Commission's review of current EU roaming rules in June this year.

The EU wants the difference between national home tariffs and the prices pay abroad to approach zero within four years. In a speech at World Mobile Congress, Kroes said consumers were currently paying far too much.

"Today voice-roaming prices within Europe are still more than three times the level of domestic charges - and for data roaming the position is even grimmer," she said.

"The consumer often pays less than five cents for downloading a megabyte of data at home, but this may turn into €2.60/MB when the same consumer crosses an invisible border," she added.

"Incentives to compete on roaming prices are not as strong as the pressures on domestic prices, but that is not a justification for the current rip-offs"

Regulators had previously taken action to reduce call costs, but with mobile internet costs increasing, the EU is on the warpath again.

Different measures

Kroes said European regulators were considering a range of measures to push roaming prices down, including removing roaming from domestic bundles and mandating that prices reflect costs.

"Competition may be stimulated by allowing customers to easily purchase roaming services independently of other mobile services - so domestic bundles would no longer include roaming services by default," Kroes said.

"Another idea was to further increase the level of retail competition by mandating wholesale roaming access at cost-oriented prices to virtual network operators," she added.

"This could allow the emergence of new pan-European roaming operators whose business model is based on accepting smaller margins than traditional players."

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