EC Threatens Bulgaria with Sanctions over Exorbitant Mobile Prices

Politics » BULGARIA IN EU | August 2, 2011, Tuesday // 15:12
Bulgaria: EC Threatens Bulgaria with Sanctions over Exorbitant Mobile Prices Bulgarians are the poorest nation in the European Union, but pay the highest prices for mobile calls across the bloc. Photo by Sofia Photo Agency

The European Commission has threatened Bulgaria with sanctions over the inflated prices mobile operators charge clients here, the highest across the bloc.

The Commission is about to issue recommendations which the Bulgarian regulatory authority CRC will be "obliged to take into utmost account", Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes said, as cited by EurActive.

The statement came in reply to a question by Andrey Kovachev, MEP from the ruling party GERB, who inquired how the commission plans to resume cuts to mobile termination rates and bring them down to and below EU average.

Bulgaria's watchdog, the Communications Regulation Commission (CRC) cut termination rates to 6.64 eurocents/min (July 2010) under Brussels pressure, but while the EU average already stands below 4.91 eurocents/min, levels in Bulgaria remain unchanged.

The government in Sofia and the regulatory body however seem to have no efficient tools to force the operators into bringing prices down.

In letters seen by EurActiv, the CRC has threatened the mobile operators with sanctions, but these appear ridiculously low compared to the companies' profits. One such sanction warns a mobile operator of a fine from 50 to 1000 leva (25 to 500 euro) per week. Although the Commission has asked the CRC to bring termination rates down to at least EU average levels several times, there has been little or virtually or no response.

According to information obtained by EurActiv, international telecommunications companies have also expressed disquiet with the high termination rates and lack of accounting transparency in Bulgaria. Western visitors holidaying in the country -- which has a healthy tourism sector -- frequently complain of excessive mobile phone charges during their stay in Bulgaria.

Since they constitute a major source of advertising revenue for the media sector, Bulgarian mobile operators remain largely immune from adverse press coverage within the country, EurActiv comments.

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Tags: prices, operators, mobile, Bulgaria, Commission, European, Communications Regulation Commission, CRC

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