13 December 2006

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Business Today

In a position to respond

Joseph Muscat

Let us not beat around the bush. The aim of the European Union’s initiative on roaming telephony costs should be that of securing for consumers a fair and transparent deal within a competitive environment.
Finding excuses to justify some irrationally high bills being charged to European consumers for making and answering a call on their mobile phone while in another EU member state is simply not on. The vision that should inspire us is that of a single European market of affordable and sustainable telecommunications that can materialise in the medium to long-term. The overhaul of the roaming system is an initiative we must be able to deliver in the short-term in order to be able to achieve our vision.
The proposal for Regulation put forward by the Commission is a good basis on which we can work.
So far I see a convergence on the part of the proposal which deals with transparency and full tariff information to consumers. Industry is taking a pro-active approach on this issue and I am positive we can agree on this point.
There is also widespread support for regulation at the wholesale level, which basically means limiting the prices operators can charge each other for roaming services. There are conflicting ideas on how best this sector can be regulated and whether the formula used by the Commission is best suited to address the issue, and what alternatives are available.
The main bone of contention is the proposed regulation of the retail aspect of roaming telephony. There are two main schools of thought. One states that once the wholesale sector is regulated, there will be no need for a retail regulation. The other argues that regulation at the retail level is necessary in order to make sure that savings get transferred to the consumer. There is also a third way approach, namely that arguing for retail regulation but with bases and criteria which are different than those put forward by the Commission.
During the past weeks I have started consultations with all the stakeholders with a view to converge on a proposal which will ensure the aim I spelt out from the onset: a fair and transparent deal for consumers within a competitive environment.
In many instances, Europe has been accused of being deaf and insensible to the needs in people’s everyday life. This is an opportunity to show that hard work within the EU institutions can make a positive difference in people’s lives.
People are calling. Europe must be found in a position to respond.

Joseph Muscat MEP (PES) is the Rapporteur on Roaming Charges within the Internal Market and Consumer Protection Committee, which is engaged in an Enhanced Cooperation procedure with the Industry Committee on this report.

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