By Huw Jones
BRUSSELS “RIP off” mobile phone operators will be forced to slash by roughly two-thirds the cost of text messages for people travelling between European Union countries, the bloc's executive arm said yesterday.

The 2.5 billion text messages sent every year by roaming customers in the EU, many of them holiday makers, cost more than 10 times more than domestic short messages (SMS), EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said in a statement. “EU citizens should be free to text across borders without being ripped off,” she said.
After the “No” vote in the Irish referendum on the EU's Lisbon reform treaty in June, Brussels is keen to show it has a role to play in the lives of the bloc's 490 million citizens.

Price caps on roamed voice calls introduced last year by Reding were one of Brussels' most popular policy moves.
Reding said Europe's mobile industry “still hasn't got the message that credible price reductions are needed to avoid regulation.” Roamed texts represented 97 percent pure revenue for operators, she said. “I will therefore recommend to my fellow commissioners that we propose a regulation of SMS roaming in October,” Reding said.
Reding won full backing from the European Regulators Group of the bloc's 27 national telecoms regulators.
A roamed text currently costs an average 29 euro cents (23 pence), excluding sales tax.
Reding said the cost of surfing the Web using a mobile phone or laptop while travelling was also too high. “We will also have to discuss in which way to address data roaming, which continues to be heavily overpriced,” she said.
Operators were divided in their response.
The GSM Association, an operators' lobby that represents big players such as Vodafone, Orange and T-Mobile, said the average price of roamed texts fell 18 percent in 2007 and Reding threatened to choke growth. “These services should be priced based on local market conditions, not on some vision of a single Europe, originating in Brussels,“ Tom Phillips, GSMA's chief of government affairs, said.

Travellers and holiday makers however, think differently with all mobile phone users looking for the best deal while away from home.


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