BEREC Publishes International Roaming Benchmark Data Report January – June 2012

BEREC published its Benchmark Data Report on International Roaming for January - June 2012. For voice roaming services, average EEA prices are near the regulated caps. This suggests that providers see little attraction in competing on Eurotariff rates, despite the fact that there is a significant margin between typical wholesale prices and retail caps.

In almost half of the member states, the national average price for incoming calls for alternative tariffs is significantly above the Eurotariff average price (a factor of 2 is typical for those member states). This is a matter of considerable concern. BEREC (and previously ERG) has supported the flexibility in the Roaming Regulation, which allows retail providers to offer alternative tariffs which widen choice for consumers and allow better deals for customers with particular patterns of service demand.

The Eurotariffs account for the majority of voice and SMS traffic. Nevertheless, there is a substantial minority of customers who use alternative tariffs. It is not a problem that customers using alternative tariffs will, from time to time, pay more for a particular call or SMS than they would have done under the Eurotariff.

Still, they would expect to gain on other calls and texts and at least break even overall. However, this appears to be very far from the situation which applies to alternative tariffs in a number of member states. For the moment, the reasons for the discrepancy remain a matter of speculation. Some may be attributable to the sale of roaming bundles which are too large to suit most customers in practice. Alternative tariffs may employ larger billing units (per minute, rather than per second) which thereby reintroduces hidden surcharges which regulation has curtailed for the Eurotariff. Or headline rates for alternative tariffs may have remained stable or even increased over time while Eurotariff rates decreased.

Whether a combination of these reasons or another effect accounts for the discrepancy, it seems that a number of consumers have made bad choices. The observed effect was clearly not the outcome intended when Council and Parliament decided that there should be freedom to provide alternative tariffs alongside the Eurotariffs.


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