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Cell Phone Companies Allowed to Charge for Incoming Calls

The European Union will not oppose plans by telecommunications companies to have mobile phone users begin paying for calls they receive. But politicians warned that consumers could oppose the move.

Woman on a crowded street talks on her cell phone

In Europe, it's cheaper to be on the receiving end

Some European telecommunications companies would like to begin charging cell phone customers every time they receive a domestic call from outside their provider's network. Currently, Europeans pay to make mobile calls, but are generally only charged for receiving them when they come from outside the country or when they themselves are abroad.

The European Commission decided Monday, June 16 not to stop telecom companies from charging customers.

"This is for companies to decide. If companies think that this makes their offer particularly attractive, then we will not forbid it," said EU telecoms spokesman, Martin Selmayr, when asked if the system might change in Europe.

"But we will also not force companies to move to that," he added.

EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding will come out with recommendations by the end of June on cutting the fees mobile and fixed line operators charge for routing each others' calls to an end customer.

Looking to lower charges, red tape

EU telecom companies bill each other a "mobile termination charge" for calls made between any two networks. The commission, the EU's competition watchdog, has proposed cutting the mobile termination charge.

The charge ranges from as low as two cents in Cyprus to as high as 20 cents in Bulgaria and Poland. Selmayr said the idea is to cut these charges to a level that would convince cell phone operators to move to a less bureaucratic system.

"It is not something that happens from one day to another," he said, adding that it was a long-term measure that would mean "less administrative burden, less red tape, more competition and in the end, lower charges for consumers."

Companies unlikely to start charging

Most customers in Europe are used to the current system, said David Pringle, spokesman for the London-based GSM Association, which represents some 750 mobile operators worldwide.

"It's well understood and accepted by consumers," Pringle told AFP news agency.

He said the market was changing rapidly and it would be up to individual mobile operators to decide what to do. But despite the European Commission's green light, he doubted operators would scramble to add charges to incoming calls.

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