(CN) – Europe’s high court upheld a regulation capping international mobile roaming fees at 59 cents a minute, saying the limit protects consumers and ensures competition.
A bevy of cellular providers, including Vodafone and T-Mobile, challenged a 2007 regulation issued by the European Community that capped the amount that can be charged for calls made and received by users outside of their network, and for calls made in foreign networks.
Before the regulation, the average cost per minute for calls made outside the home country was about $1.38, and it could have even been higher, depending on the phone’s network and country being visited. The regulation capped this at 59 cents per minute, with further amendments intended to bring this down to 42 cents by 2011. The law was also amended to include a top tariff for text messages in 2009.
The Luxembourg-based court said that the previously exorbitant costs for international roaming presented a persistent problem for authorities and consumers.
With pressure on member states to resolve the issue, the European Community faced the possibility of divergent national solutions that would still not affect wholesale charges.
Adoption of the regulation was justified, the court ruled, because a hodgepodge of laws could distort competition and “disrupt the orderly functioning” of the European mobile communications market.
The court noted that the average retail charge before the regulation was about five times the cost of providing the service, and that the tariff stipulated in the law is much closer to the actual cost.