Improbable as it may seem, plans to cut the prices Europeans pay to use their mobile phone while abroad could whizz into law within a year.
To recap: the European Commission in July vowed to the slash the “exorbitant” roaming fees that operators charge when customers travel elsewhere in the EU. The proposal brought howls of protest from big phone operators and triggered a fight between Brussels and many in the telecoms industry.
Since the Brussels legislative machine usually moves at a snail’s pace, many people expected a plan as controversial as this to linger for years before being passed.
But the word is that the law could be in place by next summer. People in the European parliament say the proposal could speed through in a single reading instead of the two lengthy sessions that many expect.
Meanwhile, an EU official says opposition from countries such as the UK and Germany (home to leading mobile phone companies such as Vodafone and T-Mobile) is diminishing.
Still, the law could still encounter obstacles. The mobile phone industry remains furious at the threat to this lucrative service and its lobbyists will be out in force when the European parliament discusses the proposal this month. Parliamentarians could be swayed by arguments that because the sector makes up to 10 per cent of profits from roaming, it would have to raise prices for other services to offset the loss.
And despite the “big gun” countries supposedly being on side, member states such as Belgium and Spain are said to need convincing before a vote by national governments can turn the plan into law.
Plus, several details have to be ironed out - such as whether to cap the price of sending text messages while overseas.
But for now, the signs are good for Europeans already dreaming of next summer’s foreign holiday.