Trade group rejects EU chief Barroso's call for end to roaming fees

Sept. 11, 2013 at 7:25 PM
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BRUSSELS, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- A trade group Wednesday rejected European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso's call for dropping roaming charges on cross-border mobile phone calls.

The European Union's telecommunications commissioner, Neelie Kroes, made a similar suggestion in May, The New York Times reported. Kroes said in a statement Wednesday mobile phone users who cross borders in Europe should be able to switch carriers.

Companies in Europe operate "largely on the basis of 28 national markets," Kroes said. "No telecoms company ... operates across the whole" of the European Union, she said.

Barroso, in a speech before the European Parliament, said he supported a proposal that will need to pass in the EU parliament and be ratified by member nations. The proposal, he said, would create "lower prices for consumers and present new opportunities for companies."

A European trade group reacted, saying lawmakers should focus on "increased investment in Europe's telecoms infrastructure," rather than elimination of roaming fees.

Europe required a "more thorough and comprehensive approach," said Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSMA group, the Times reported.

Large cellular providers such as Britain's Vodafone, Orange and O2 have warned the proposals could cost them $9.3 billion if they are forced to offer a flat rate at home or abroad for calls, texts and Internet connections across Europe.

Kroes, who has been a long-time opponent of roaming fees that mean large bills for European vacationers when they return home, has characterized roaming charges as a "cash cow" for network providers and "a disproportionate irritant for travelers."

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