Britain questions EU's mobile operator fees plan

LONDON, Sept 22 (Reuters) - Plans by the European Commission to cut the fees mobile operators charge for handling each others’ calls do not take into consideration their full impact and are being introduced too soon, Britain said on Monday.

In a joint statement, sector regulator Ofcom and the department for business and regulation said the Commission’s recommendations could be vulnerable to a legal challenge unless adjusted.

The Commission published guidelines in June, proposing to cut so-called mobile termination rates by 70 percent.

“The fact that the Commission has recommended a particular approach does not of itself provide sufficient justification for adopting it, especially in the absence of adequate supporting analysis of rationale and impact,” the UK bodies said.

“Unless these deficiencies are addressed, any account taken of the recommendation could be vulnerable to legal challenge, not least because of the departures from previously established best practice.”

The two groups said a “more complete consideration of the impact, including the wider effect of the proposals on the retail prices faced by mobile and fixed subscribers” was needed.

Mobile termination rates make up about 20 percent of a mobile operator’s revenue and the new methodology will be phased in by 2011 under the EU plans.

Ofcom also said it had already set mobile termination rates until 2011 and suggested a “glidepath” could be used after that time to ensure a gradual transition to the new system to avoid undue disruption to business models. (Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by David Holmes)