(Adds more details)
By Huw Jones
BRUSSELS Jan 12 Mobile phone operators in the European Union may face a ban on charging customers for receiving voice mail messages outside their home state in the EU, turning the screw on industry revenues, a document showed on Monday.
EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding has proposed capping the retail price of roamed text messages at 11 euro cents (15 U.S. cents) each from July compared with around 29 cents now.
She has also proposed a cap of 1 euro per megabyte on the wholesale price of data downloads such as using a phone or laptop to check emails or surf the Web outside a home state in the 27-nation EU.
Reding also wants existing price caps on roamed voice calls to be extended by three years to 2013.
EU states and the European Parliament have the final say on the measure. Governments gave their initial green light in November, but parliament has yet to hold a vote.
Adina-Ioana Valean, a Romanian Liberal steering the bill through parliament, largely endorses Reding's plans but has proposed a tougher line on operators in two respects -- voice messages and data tariffs.
"Home providers shall not levy any charge on their roaming customers for the receipt by them of a roaming voice mail message," said Valean's amendments to Reding's proposal, which were obtained by Reuters.
As the roaming regulation plans to prohibit charges for receiving a text message, this principle should also apply to roamed voice mail messages as their duration cannot be controlled by the customer, the draft document said.
"This is without prejudice to the charges the operators may levy when the customer listens to such a voice mail message," the draft added.
Valean has also proposed capping the wholesale price of roamed data at 0.001 euro per kilobyte rather than at 1 euro per megabyte as Reding has proposed, the document said.
There are 1,024 kilobytes in a megabyte and Valean has said data roaming prices are now hovering around 25 euro cents per megabyte in any case.
"It is necessary to ensure that there is no discrimination between provision of low-volume data products, for example blackberry, traffic pricing, mobile GPS etc, and high-volume products like multimedia downloads," the document said.
Some lawmakers are pushing for a retail price cap on roamed data but Valean is against this.
Operators say tariffs are already tumbling and the draft law is too interventionist but consumer groups and Reding say the industry has had long enough to bring down "exorbitant" prices. (Editing by Dale Hudson, John Stonestreet)