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Consumer Association calls for EU legislation on mobile costs

Figures from the EU commission show that Irish consumers pay five times more than the cheapest EU rates in Lithuania.

EU LEGISLATION WILL be required to enforce price consistency in the mobile phone market according to the Consumers’ Association of Ireland.

The call comes on the back of figures showing that Irish mobile users pay five times more than the cheapest EU rates in Lithuania with Irish providers also charging customers more than the EU average.

Figures from the EU commission show that Irish consumers pay an average of 10.2 cent per minute on their calls, above the EU average of 9.1 cent and one place above our UK neighbours in the rankings.

(Full figures available here)

The commission says that price differences cannot be explained by differences in quality, differences in the cost to provide the service, or by differences between countries in consumer purchasing power.

CAI chief executive Dermott Jewell agrees, saying that “it’s long past the time when we started to have this true single market”. He adds that he feels legislation will be need to enforce consistency across member states and that the current EU commissioner in the area has been making strong statements in this regard.

European Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said yesterday for example that “it is critical for the whole EU to move quickly to build a real single market to achieve a truly connected continent.”

Jewell argues that, despite mobile costs coming down in Ireland, the country still ranks in the top third in price terms because the market is not truly competitive with prices fixed at a base level:

We regularly peak in research as regards the numbers of people using mobile phones so you would have though that there are of scale are there to reduce prices.

Rules to improve transparency in price setting will likely not be sufficient to help consumers he added with previous attempts scuppered by providers who say that it harms competitive practices.

The recent purchase of O2 Ireland by Three has also stoked competition concerns in the Irish market but Jewell believes that it is too early to tell what effect this will have on prices in Ireland, saying it could “go either way”.

The increased focus on internal call charges comes on the back of moves put in place by EU officials to reduce roaming charges across the single market. New EU rules have reduced roaming charges across EU markets with Kroes pledging to eliminate them entirely by next year.

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About the author:

Rónán Duffy

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