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Mobile roaming rate comparison service launches

Response to pressure from the EC

Mobile operators have today launched a website where customers can compare international roaming rates. The GSM Association's site is a response to criticism from the EC (European Commission).

The site lets customers select their home country, their network operator and the EU (European Union) country they plan to visit. It then displays the cost of a two-minute call and a text message on each of the local operators' networks. The site includes some results from special roaming offers that operators might make.

Customers can search for roaming rates in the 25 EU countries. The site could begin to include other popular destinations such as Croatia, Turkey or Morocco but adding non-EU countries also adds complexity, said Eirini Zafeiratou, a spokeswoman for GSM Europe. The site was initiated by GSM Europe, which is an association that includes operators in the EU. The group would have to reach out to operators that are not members of the association in order to include results about roaming to other countries. However, the group will consider adding more countries based on user feedback, she said.

Of the 85 operators that are part of GSM Europe, six or seven, including the company 3, did not participate in the site. Some of them said that their own sites offer enough information, Zafeiratou said. 3's rates are listed in search results but customers can't choose 3 as their home operator in order to determine their roaming rates.

The site is better then other existing comparison sites, including one hosted by the EC, because those sites are usually infrequently updated, feature static tables and don't always include all special offers, Zafeiratou said. Operators will update the site individually each time they introduce changes to their roaming offerings.

International roaming has been in the spotlight since the EC began work on a new regulation that will force operators to reduce their roaming rates. The EC has criticised European operators for charging exorbitant roaming rates and for making it difficult for users to figure out how much they'll have to pay when roaming. The website aims to address the transparency issue, Zafeiratou said.


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