Roaming charges could be reduced even more

Nobody should have to pay more than 33 cents per minute roaming charges – that is the conclusion drawn by BEUC from a study on roaming charges published today and carried out for BEUC and UFC-Que Choisir.

Contrary to industry claims, there is no evidence of a reduction in roaming charges for consumers in recent times. Operators promote various “bundled” offers or “plans” but these are very complex, difficult to use, and have no appreciable effect on charges overall. Their main effect is to act as a smokescreen!
The GSM Association has claimed that the Commission has not considered the recent price decreases at retail level. The Altex report analyses in detail the recent offers of Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone to see if roaming prices have actually decreased. No evidence of this claim can be found – competition is still not working. In the case of Orange post paid clients in France, the only change in retail tariffs was a reclassification of Poland putting the price for a roaming in Poland to 1€ a minute instead of 1.18€.  
Furthermore, bundled offers are limited to very specific conditions. The bundled offer from Orange applies only to one specific subscription and only between June and October. The T-Mobile bundled offer is actually a temporary reduction from 59 cents a minute to 34 cents, both for making and receiving calls. It applies once a year during a 4 weeks time period and only for 30 minutes of roaming.  
As an example, the report analyses the Vodafone Passport in France, in the UK and in Germany. First of all, the offer is only valid when the Vodafone and “Vodafone-friends” networks are being used (E.g. Proximus in Belgium or SFR in France). In the case of SFR/Vodafone Passport France, this condition applies to incoming calls equally, an element beyond the consumers’ influence. Secondly, the tariff structure renders short calls even more expensive than under a ‘normal’ tariff. The tariff per minute is lower, but a connection fee is added, no matter how long the call is. Overall, the “break-even” length varies: after 60 seconds in the UK and Germany and up to 171 seconds in France it becomes more interesting to use the package.
Contrary to operators’ arguments, price reductions will not lead to a corresponding drop in revenue. They claim that businesses use roaming because they have to, and that their habits won’t change even if prices are decreased. The report proves that these arguments are wrong; ‘ordinary’ consumers roam too, are sensitive to price and would use roaming services much more if prices were reduced.
Alain Bazot, President of UFC-Que Choisir declared: “Mobile phone operators are twisting the truth; from the beginning they have organized collusion on a massive scale throughout Europe. The time has come to put an end to this, and build a Europe of telecommunications.”
Jim Murray, BEUC Director underlined: “With lower prices, consumers will make more international calls. Higher volumes will reduce unit costs – with benefits all round. It’s time to get those prices down, down, down.”


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