Viviane Reding is standing firm in defence of her method, which includes imposing a ceiling on gross and retail prices in order to cut the cost of roaming communications in the EU as soon as possible. During a debate organised by the Party of European Socialists at the European Parliament on 11 January, the commissioner for information society once again dismissed the French-British proposal despite it being well received by the Council for its flexibility).

Replacing the ceilings by average prices could be an "interesting model," she conceded, but added that the method would benefit frequent users of mobile telephones, ie businessmen, at the expense of occasional users such as tourists and students.

The commissioner also criticised London and Paris' desire to introduce a sunset clause,' allowing a six-month period of grace after the entry into force of the regulation before imposing a regulation on operators which have not yet reduced their retail prices.

"But how will we determine when to impose the regulation?" she asked, adding that it would create a paradise for lawyers because of the extent of the legal "uncertainty". Those who favour the sunset clause "should state clearly that they do not want a detailed regulation," added the commissioner before rejecting out of hand the threat that operators would increase their national prices to compensate, saying that it would cause them to lose more clients.

Reding also indicated that she would study the proposals put forward by the German EU Presidency, eager to reach a compromise before the end of June, from two angles: all consumers should benefit from the reduced prices and the regulation must be both simple and understandable.

"If the aim is have a single price for all consumers, be they occasional or frequent travellers, it will eliminate all competition," objected the representative from the British operator Vodafone.

"We know that a regulation will be introduced," added the representative from the French operator Orange, while still calling for a balance between the clients' interests and innocvation and competition. According to Jean-Noel Tronc, Director of Orange, UK, European telecommunications are at a...

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