'Collusion' by mobile-phone operators on roaming charges

A European consumer-affairs body has said that mobile-phone operators “organised collusion on a massive scale throughout Europe” in relation to the price of mobile-phone roaming charges.


The Bureau Européen des Unions de Consommateurs (BEUC) published a report claiming that evidence shows the cost to operators for connecting a roaming call is no more than 5 or 6 cents per minute. They say that a user should pay no more than 33 cents per minute for a roaming call. A European Commission study notes that the average roaming charge to a user is €1.15 per minute, more than five times the cost of providing the wholesale service.

The consumer group report says: “The retail prices charged by operators ... burden customers with payments that ignore economic reality.

“Mobile phone operators are twisting the truth. From the beginning they have organised collusion on a massive scale throughout Europe.”

The group also said that “contrary to industry claims, there is no evidence of a reduction in roaming charges for customers in recent times.”

It compared the situation to the cost of motorway tolls – foreigners and residents pay the same amount for these. It argued that a different approach, where nationals and non-nationals would pay a different amount “would be reprehensible based on the principle of non-discrimination according to nationality”.

The European Commission is planning to introduce regulations to cap the mark-up that mobile operators can charge customers. The proposed regulation would cause a cut in roaming charges of 70 per cent. Local calls would cost no more than 33 cent per minute and the cost to receive a call would be 16.5 cents. Mobile-phone operators would also be required to provide customers with full, transparent information on roaming charges.

Labour Spokesperson for Communications, Tommy Broughan, urged Minister for Communications Noel Dempsey and telecoms regulator Comreg to investigate the claims of collusion. Broughan met with a number of representatives from mobile-phone companies this week, but they declined to respond to the allegations.


By Tom Rowe