With Commissioners Reding and Kuneva moving on the offensive against the telecom giants in an attempt to curb overcharging in text messages and data charges across euro-borders, I can’t help but ask, why is this all necessary?
Jon Worth’s breakdown of the sitution is very pragmatic:
So what does the Commission do? Well it cannot force changes to the market. It cannot create a proper EU-wide telecoms regulator as the Member States would cry foul. But it can manage to make the populist decision to cap prices, nevertheless leaving the problems with the market essentially unchanged. Better than nothing I suppose, but far from satisfactory.
The Commission is clearly making an effort to put down the prices. It started out well with voice roaming in 2007. Kuneva, in today’s press conference on the issue (it’s available for streaming on EBS somewhere) said in quite carefully selected words that she is not happy with the outcome of the voice roaming regulation, and that a new cartel has formed around the imposed limits.
Reding seemed appalled that the telecoms aren’t taking the hint and moving towards self-regulation. The proposed new caps on data and sms roaming are quite significant for the European consumer, yet still allow for the telecoms to make significant profits. Indeed the cost of an SMS message from abroad is under 1 eurocent, and the proposed price-cap stands at 10 cents. When asked by a journalist why there is such a difference between the cost and the price cap, Reding replied quite pragmatically, that if they had set the cap lower, telecoms would complain that they are forced into losses. Indeed telecoms have already reacted in the UK; and why wouldn’t they- they have abused citizen money to lose. One European newspaper has seriously questioned the commission’s approach leaving several unanswered questions.
It seems that Reding and Kuneva have good intentions, but it remains to be seen how much they will be allowed by the Council and Parliament to accomplish. Reding has faced the music before, and will no doubt put up a strong fight to achieve what’s best for the European Consumer.