Arow over a ban on EU mobile phone data roaming charges could push up the price of standard mobile contracts for millions of consumers from next year as telecoms companies fight to maintain their profits.
Today EU member states finalised a vote to let mobile providers keep charging each other high wholesale roaming prices, despite EU roaming becoming free for consumers from June 2017.
If wholesale prices remain high, telecoms firms will be forced to absorb the extra cost by raising the price of ordinary contracts, or facing losing money.
States have agreed to cap wholesale data roaming fees at 10 euros per gigabyte from June, declining to half that in 2021.
This is far higher than the cap which was proposed by the EU Parliament, which wanted an initial cap of 4 euros per gigabyte, declining to just one euro by 2021.
Countries whose telecoms countries benefit heavily from tourists, including the UK, Italy, Greece and Spain voted against the EU Parliament’s lower wholesale fees caps.
Sources said the UK had changed its mind at the last minute to avoid a stalemate among divided EU states, which could have altogether derailed the roaming fees plan.
Until a cap on wholesale fees is agreed the reforms would not be able to take place. Experts at the European Consumer Organisation warned the decision would have negative consequences on plans to abolish roaming fees in June 2017.
The reforms are being designed to protect consumers from extortionate bills while using mobile data on holiday by letting them use foreign data for the same price as they would pay at home.
Monique Goyens, the director general of the European Consumer Organisation, said: “Member States’ handling of this wholesale roaming reform is like playing with fire.
In their effort to please their national telecom players they risk scuppering the long-promised end of roaming fees in June 2017.
“Consumers should not have to pay higher phone bills just because they move across a border. Neither should they face the risk of higher domestic prices because their governments decided against bringing down high wholesale charges.
“In these times of political uncertainty, the EU must guarantee the success of its flagship projects. We ask governments to rethink their position and take decisive action to end roaming fees in the EU.”