Consumers save EUR 77 million thanks to intervention on mobile phone call rates within Europe

OPTA, the Independent Post and Telecommunications Authority of the Netherlands, has calculated that Dutch consumers have saved a total of EUR 77 million on their telephone bills in relation to mobile phone calls made to or from another European country. Since 1 October 2007 a regulation has been in force, which makes it mandatory for mobile phone service providers to charge no more than the EU rate for calls to or from another European country. The EU rate has been set at EUR 0.58 per minute for calls made and EUR 0.29 per minute for calls received in another country. This regulation also stipulates that mobile phone service providers must send their customers an SMS message containing details of these rates, as soon as they cross the border. OPTA has calculated these savings as part of a study into the impact which the regulation has had on Dutch consumers. OPTA is evaluating the effects of the regulation together with other European regulatory authorities united in the European Regulators Group (ERG).

Chris Fonteijn, the OPTA Chairman, has this to say: “Within the European Regulators Group OPTA works closely with the European Commission to ensure that we have a European telecommunications market which operates smoothly. Thanks to our combined intervention calls to and from another European country have become considerably cheaper. In addition, because consumers receive an SMS message containing relevant information as soon as they cross the border, it is immediately clear to them how much they will pay for inbound and outbound calls.” The chairman is not yet entirely satisfied: “The rates for cross-border SMS messages and mobile Internet access remain unchanged. These tariffs need to fall significantly for Dutch consumers, otherwise we will urge the European Commission to regulate them as well.”

In addition, it is important for consumers to obtain appropriate information from their mobile phone service provider before they go on holiday, so that they know exactly what they will be paying for SMS messages and mobile Internet access within Europe. It is worth comparing the rates charged by the various providers. In some cases this could yield savings of up to half of the relevant tariffs.

OPTA has also investigated the tariffs charged for calls from the Netherlands to non-EU countries. The regulatory authority is monitoring these rates to see whether telecommunications companies are using calls made outside the European Union to compensate for the reduced EU rate. OPTA believes that this is not the case at present. The study has revealed that there has not been any significant change in non-EU tariffs for Dutch consumers.