European wireless subscribers may have to pay to receive calls

17 Jun 2008

The European Commission has said it will not stop mobile firms from charging customers for calls received on their mobile phones in their own country, but warned that users could oppose the move. ‘This is for companies to decide. If companies think that this makes their offer particularly attractive, then we will not forbid it,’ said EC telecoms spokesman, Martin Selmayr, when asked if the system might change in Europe. ‘But we will also not force companies to move to that,’ he said, adding that the commission would not be imposing any so-called ‘bill and keep’ business model on them.

Europeans pay to make mobile calls but are generally only charged for receiving them when they are abroad. Users elsewhere, in the United States and some parts of Asia, notably China, pay for both even in their home country. At the moment in the EU, telecoms companies bill each other a ‘mobile termination charge’ for calls made between any two networks which is then passed on to customers. The commission wants to cut the mobile termination charge, which averages around EUR0.09 (USD0.14) per minute, across the 27 EU nations. The charge ranges from as low as two cents to as high as 20 cents, with Cyprus costing the least, while Bulgaria and Poland are among the most expensive.

The EU’s telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding is understood to hold the view that there is no reason why people should not be charged to receive calls on their mobiles, although she concedes that such a scheme could only be implemented if and when the costs of SMS and roaming have been cut dramatically. She acknowledged too that a ‘receiver-pays’ model would have to be voluntarily adopted by operators across the EU, something that is unlikely in the current climate.