Consumers get a raw deal from Swiss mobile phone operators and new solutions for roaming are needed as the situation is “blocked”, according to the price watchdog. Swiss operators earned CHF857 million ($939 million) in roaming fees in 2012.
“The situation is blocked,” price watchdog Stefan Meierhans told public radio on Wednesday. “For years we’ve suggested a telecommunications agreement with the European Union over roaming charges so we are tied to the EU and benefit from their regulations. But it never got started.”
Meierhans felt the EU did not want to conclude such an agreement with Switzerland and said motions in the Swiss parliament were currently frozen ahead of a government report on roaming due next year which should clarify whether regulations are needed.
So creative solutions are needed to encourage competition among Swiss phone operators like Swisscom, Orange and Sunrise which dominate the market, said Meierhans.
To try to reduce charges he wants consumers to be able to shop around for separate roaming contracts from mobile phone deals they have concluded with their existing operator.
“When you buy a telephone at Swisscom for example you could buy your roaming contract say at Orange or Sunrise. This would encourage competition between operators and have an impact on prices,” he told RTS radio.
Last year Swiss phone companies earned CHF857 million in roaming fees which are charged to customers when they use their mobile phones outside the country. This represents a 1.4 per cent increase on 2011, the federal communications office reported.
The Swiss are currently paying much more than their European neighbours for phone calls, text messages and downloading abroad. The EU has adopted binding price ceilings for roaming among operators but no such limits exist in Switzerland.
There are plans in the EU to go even further and abolish mobile phone roaming charges entirely across the 28-nation zone. Proposed legislation would mean that customers will no longer have to pay for incoming calls when traveling in other EU countries starting in July 2014 and it would end all roaming charges two years later. It also seeks to cap prices of EU-international fixed-line calls at the level of domestic long-distance calls.
The plan still must be approved by the European Parliament and the governments of the EU member states.
swissinfo.ch and agencies