Group hits European mobile firms over roaming fees

21 Feb 2007

(Associated Press via NewsEdge) European consumers' group BEUC claimed that telecom companies have failed to make real cuts to charges for using a phone abroad, saying much-publicized price reductions were a 'smokescreen' to stave off a regulatory price cap.

It said a study it commissioned showed that 'excessive' roaming fees have not come down despite the introduction of new schemes by operators last summer under threat of an EU-wide price limit.

Offers from operators such as Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile and France Telecom's Orange are very complex, difficult to use, and have no appreciable effect on charges overall, said BEUC, the European Consumers Organization.

'Their main function is as a smokescreen,' BEUC director Jim Murray told reporters.

BEUC economist Dominique Forest said customers were not given a deal that corresponds to their needs, citing the Orange Europe package for French users that gives a special rate for 40 minutes of calls made from abroad every month.

'Most consumers don't go on holiday every month. That would mean on average you would use two times 40 minutes and in total you would have paid 12 times 40 minutes whether you use it or not,' he said.

He recommended a cap for retail prices of 33 euro cents ($0.43) a minute for a customer calling home from abroad. The EU executive says operators charge consumers about euro1.15 ($1.51).

Vodafone said last year that the average cost to its customers for calls in Europe would fall from more than 89 euro cents ($1.14) a minute to less than 55 euro cents ($0.70) a minute by April.

© 2007 The Associated Press

© 2007 Dialog, a Thomson business. All rights reserved

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