EU committee approves roaming caps

Plans to cut mobile phone roaming charges by as much as 70 per cent have been approved by a committee of European MPs.

The European parliament's industry, research and energy committee voted in favour of the plans this morning and will now put their proposals to a full vote of the legislature at a later date.

EU commissioners hope that the proposed price caps will be in place by the summer, although member states will still have to approve the plans if members of the European parliament accept the changes.

"It will make crystal clear that the European parliament can flex its decision-making muscles ... and also make sure that the council [of ministers] fully incorporates the European parliament's views in its final decision," the MEP responsible for the plans, Paul Ruebig, said after the vote.

"It will make crystal clear that the European parliament can flex its decision-making muscles ... and also make sure that the council fully incorporates the European parliament's views in its final decision," he added.

EU telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding said earlier that a political agreement on lower roaming tariffs was "now within reach".

Ms Reding proposed the legislation to cut roaming tariffs last year amid EC claims that mobile phone companies are profiting to the tune of some €8.5 billion (£5.7 billion) a year as a result of charges consumers pay to make calls abroad.

"In this important phase of the legislative procedure, it is of crucial importance to ensure that all consumers in the EU will be able to benefit from lower roaming charges, and that no one is left behind," she said.

But mobile phone providers, who have fiercely resisted the plans to regulate roaming costs, have insisted that the charges are justified due to the costs they incur when routing calls on rival networks.

Warning of the "serious harm" which would result from the regulations, the GSM Association, which represents a number of Europe's mobile operators, urged MEPs to reject the plans.

"At a time when Europe is trying to stimulate investment and innovation, these inappropriate and inconsistent proposals are becoming increasingly removed from the economic realities of the mobile market," said the organisation's chief executive Rob Conway.

He urged the European parliament "not to risk introducing distortions into the roaming market that will remove incentives to compete and penalise some customers".

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