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EC tackles high roaming charges

But telcos expected to block move

The EC (European Commission) plans to take steps to prevent mobile phone operators from charging users extraordinarily high roaming charges, a spokesman said today.

European Information Society Commissioner Vivian Reding is set to announce in Paris this evening that she will put forward a regulation banning operators from charging higher roaming fees – charges for one mobile operator to use another's company's network – for international calls than they do for national roaming.

The EC is the EU's (European Union's) executive branch and its antitrust and regulatory authority. The regulation on roaming charges would have to be ratified by the governments of the EU's 25 member states and members of the European Parliament. But EC staff believe the measure could be agreed relatively quickly because it would directly benefit EU consumers. They believe it could come into force in the second half of 2007.

However, it is expected that some European companies will try to block the move. "We expect Deutsche Telekom to do some lobbying," said one EC official.

Reding's move comes after the EC carried out an intensive study of roaming charges, including setting up a website where consumers could compare charges. Despite repeated warnings to companies to lower their prices, the EC found that there had been no significant improvements and decided to take action.

Roaming charges vary widely across the EU. The highest rate found was more than €13 (about £9) a minute charged to a Maltese consumer roaming in Latvia.

The proposal for a regulation is expected to be published by the EC before the summer.

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