EU Plans To Hack Roaming Charges

EU commissioners earlier tried to force mobile operators on the continent to lower the fees they charge users for international roaming by drawing more attention to the high rates, but apparently it’s not had a big enough effect as regulators today announced plans to slash the prices users pay when they travel. The proposals would force carriers to charge users the same rates they pay when they’re in their home country when they travel to any other EU country — which is nice for consumers, but is a pretty drastic level of governmental interference. The regulators don’t have any apparent regard for the additional cost that providing service to a customer traveling outside the country can incur in the way of wholesale usage costs to foreign operators. The operators, meanwhile, argue that prices are falling and the market can sort this issue out, even though their retail prices include a very healthy profit margin and aren’t falling very quickly. While the regulators do have a point that normal competition doesn’t seem to be working in this market, their interference is awfully heavy-handed. Keep in mind, too, that the EU approved Vodafone’s 2000 takeover of Germany’s Mannesmann after it backed off plans to cut roaming fees — shouldn’t that be a sign of how this kind of regulation can carry unintended consequences?

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