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Accused of 'twisting the truth'

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Mobile operators have been accused of "twisting the truth" by a major European consumer lobby group investigating roaming charges.

According to BEUC, mobile customers shouldn't pay more than €0.33 per minute on roaming charges. The figure was calculated by doubling the mobile termination rate of the larger networks, and adding a 30 per cent mark-up.

The report found that contrary to industry claims, there was no proof that consumers had experienced reduced charges. It also accused the operators of using their bundled offers and plans as a "smokescreen", claiming the plans were complex and had little effect on overall charges.

Labour's communications spokesperson Tommy Broughan called on the Minister for Communications Noel Dempsey and telecoms regulator ComReg to investigate claims in the report that telecom operators have colluded to keep mobile phone roaming charges unjustifiably high.

"At the moment the European Commission reports that the average retail charge of a call made abroad is approximately €1.15 per minute. Under current Commission plans for tackling roaming charges a cap of €0.49 per minute will be levied, as the commission believes the real cost to telecom operators for connecting a roaming call are only €0.10 to €0.12 per minute," he said.

Broughan said he also planned to speak to Vodafone on the matter, in a bid to get them to address "unjustifiably high" roaming and termination charges that mobile users are forced to pay.

Alain Bazot, resident of French consumer body UFC-Que Choisir, accused mobile operators of "twisting the truth".

"From the beginning they have organised collusion on a massive scale throughout Europe. The time has come to put an end to this, and build a Europe of telecommunications," he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, BEUC director Jim Murray said he believed that lower prices would encourage consumers to make more international calls. "Higher volumes will reduce unit costs - with benefits all round," he said.

The BEUC study also claimed that information supplied to operators was often incomplete. It rubbished operators' arguments that reduced roaming charges would lead to a corresponding slump in revenue, as it said more consumers would use the services abroad if the prices were reduced.

The study comes after the EU made moves to force operators to cap roaming charges, because it said the networks weren't moving quickly enough under their own steam. EU ministers backed proposals to limit the charges mobile operators are allowed to levy on customers roaming on their networks while travelling abroad.

EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding wanted to see the restrictions brought in before the holiday season of summer 2007.

Copyright © 2007, ENN

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