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EU panel OKs cell-phone roaming cap

April 12, 2007 at 2:02 PM

BRUSSELS, April 12 (UPI) -- A key European Parliament committee voted overwhelmingly Thursday to slash cell phone roaming charges in Europe, all but guaranteeing the fees will drop.

The industry committee's 45-4 vote puts a cap of 40 euro cents (54 U.S. cents) a minute for outgoing calls and 15 euro cents (20 U.S. cents) a minute for incoming calls.

"Roaming charges are set to tumble. This is a major success for European consumers and a clear signal to Europe's telecom industry," said Austrian Christian Democrat Paul Ruebig, who is steering the legislation through the Parliament.

Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding of Luxembourg noted customers would not have to apply for the lower rates -- which could be as much as 70 percent -- but would receive them automatically, The Times of London reported.

The European Commission estimates cell phone companies make an $11.5 billion profit a year from roaming charges -- four times more than from calls within a single country.

The cell phone operators association criticized the vote, saying roaming charges had already fallen 25 percent since 2005.

The full Parliament will vote on the bill early next month -- a vote seen as a formality, given its widespread cross-party support, the Times said.

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