Phil Bennion has hailed a move by an EU Commissioner to end the 'roaming rip-off' of extra charges on mobile phones and downloads abroad.
Extra charges for mobile phone calls and texts made abroad but within the EU have been steadily falling as the law is tightened, but now Lib Dem MEPs and a Lib Dem European Commissioner, Neelie Kroes, have announced a plan to outlaw them completely by 2015. The ban will be one result of a single market in telecommunications, which will also boost GDP and jobs.
West Midlands Lib Dem MEP Phil Bennion said:
“Extra charges to recieve or make a call, text or download a file just because you are on the other side of a national border are a total rip-off.
"A few big phone companies have kept prices outrageously high by creating artificial barriers between countries. At last, after years of Lib Dem pressure, we will see the EU using its full powers to get a better deal for consumers and business and smash this cosy cartel.
"The plan for a single telecom market in the EU will also boost GDP by 0.9% - which means 110 billion Euros across the EU as a whole. Britain has a bigger share of the telecom market than most so we should gain by more than that.
"Cutting costs will mean extra local jobs for firms using telecoms or e-commerce for their business - like Amazon at their huge hub in Rugeley in Staffordshire.
"This is the European Commission working at its best: opening up markets, removing artificial barriers and helping citizens and businesses take full advantage of living in a single market of 500 million people.”
Scrapping roaming and extra data charges will also help tourism, one of the biggest and fastest growing sectors in the regional economy, as visitors here will also have lower bills.
Between 2012 and 2014, EU laws will have forced the cost of mobile data down from around 65p per megabyte to less than 20p. The cost for receiving a phone call while abroad has dropped by more than half and the new laws would see that type of charge disappear altogether.
Phil Bennion added:
"The single telecom market is a great idea which will boost jobs and cut costs, it is a shame it has taken so long to get governments to agree it should go ahead, but better late than never.
“Charging someone to receive a call is basically unfair as callers cannot tell whether you are abroad or not until they dial.At long last these greedy telecom companies will be forced to stop ripping us off with charges for doing nothing.
“The value of being in the EU is shown if you have recently visited Croatia. When that country joined the EU this July, roaming charges for British and other EU tourists dropped by 90%. Before this year, using your smartphone in Croatia could easily cost you hundreds, even thousands of pounds."
The European Commission yesterday unveiled plans to open up the telecoms sector, a move which could boost annual GDP growth across Europe by around 0.9%. The proposals include phasing out mobile phone roaming charges and new rules to improve consumer protection.
Mobile phone calls are currently five times cheaper in Lithuania and two times cheaper in Belgium than in the UK (the 10th most expensive country). The proposed telecoms package will increase competition and drive down costs for UK consumers by opening the market here.
The Commission proposes to end charges for incoming roaming calls by 2014. It will also encourage operators to form alliances with other networks to offer EU-wide bundles (covering at least 85% of the European population and 21 European member states) while customers will be able to freely switch to another provider when travelling in the EU.
Liberal Democrat MEPs are committed to a roaming-free Europe by 2015, and will work closely with Dutch Liberal Commissioner Neelie Kroes to achieve this. http://libdemmeps.com/?p=1100