Cheaper phone calls to other EU countries in proposed update of rules

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Cheaper phone calls to other EU countries in update of EU rulesAccording to a draft law approved on Monday during a European Parliament Plenary Session, long-distance intra-EU calls should cost the same as calling within the same country.

On Monday evening, the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) voted on an update of EU rules on telecoms.

The objective is to improve access to networks across the EU, including making 5G connections available to all citizens. The bill, still to be agreed with EU Ministers, also provides for measures to protect consumers.

Committee MEPs agreed that EU communications companies should justify when they charge additional fees to users calling from mobiles or landlines to another EU member state.

The Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) would set out guidelines on how service providers could recover the costs they incur in other ways.

Also introduced by Committee MEPs, was a “reverse 112 system,” enabling national authorities to alert citizens in the event of imminent major emergencies and disasters, such as a terrorist attack or a natural catastrophe, using geo-localisation tools.

This system aims to reduce casualties by instructing people on what to do if they are in danger.

MEPs also want the use of end-to-end encryption to be mandatory to protect the confidentiality of communications.

They said that users should be informed of risks resulting from a security incident and possible protective measures or solutions that they can take.

The reform of EU telecoms markets aims to: stimulate competition and reduce differences in practices among national antitrust bodies; encourage bigger and longer-term investments in network infrastructures; and provide consumers with faster connections, including 5G.

MEPs, in addition, want licences for the radio spectrum for telecoms companies to last 25 years to incentivise investments.

“They should be subject to a review after at least 10 years, to ensure they are being used efficiently,” MEPs said. Adding that they also want reserve prices (i.e. price set for a bid) and licensing fees to reflect real market conditions.

Finally, MEPS noted that companies providing electronic communications services in more than one member state will benefit from a home market regime, i.e. the same conditions as local companies.

A vote was then taken by the Committee on a separate draft legislation, still part of the same package of proposals, for the establishment of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), with the objective of implementing electronic communications legislation consistently across the Union.

Maltese MEP Marlene Mizzi, S&D negotiator on this file in the Internal Market Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) said, “Roaming was a great political victory, but now it is time for the next big step towards creating a single telecoms market for European consumers.”

“Now, it is time to lower international call charges and to ensure that having access to basic and affordable internet is an universal right to all EU citizens,” she added.

MEP Mizzi said, that today, with one vote we have won many battles. We not only lowered the price gap between national and international calls, but we improved enormously consumer’s rights and rights for people with disabilities in the telecom sector.”

“This proposal will bring many tangible benefits to European citizens and might even save their lives with the new provisions on the emergency numbers 112 and 116 on missing children and with the adoption of a special public warning system that will inform people who find themselves in danger zones, such as terrorist attacks or natural catastrophes,” concluded the MEP.

Informal negotiations with EU Ministers are expected to start promptly, once plenary has approved the draft negotiating mandate.

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