European telecoms companies are divided over their response to threatened legal action that would force them to cut the cost of international mobile telephone use.

The disagreement comes as the European Commission prepares to publish details next week of proposed legislation to cut lucrative international “roaming” charges paid by mobile phone owners.

International roaming is the add-on charge customers pay to use another company’s network and analysts estimate it accounts for 10-15 per cent of mobile operators’ profits.

The tensions are understood to be the main reason behind a decision taken by GSM Association, the industry trade body, to cancel a meeting scheduled for Monday to allow the industry to set out its case to the Commission.

Such is the extent of the division that a number of chief executives are understood to be separately visiting Viviane Reding, European Union telecoms commissioner, this week.

There is disagreement on a number of matters, most significantly a stand-off between the operators in northern Europe and their counterparts in the south.

Tourism flows mean that southern European operators have become net beneficiaries of roaming payments and are resisting any change that could threaten this income.

Some industry executives believe the lack of a common industry approach makes legislation inevitable.

A Commission spokesman said: “We are working on the draft of the legislation. We wanted first to hear what operators had to say to see if they could propose a solution to solve this problem without legislation. Now we will present our plans to the public and let a public consultation judge our proposal.”

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