The "economic madness" of mobile roaming charges is harmful not only to consumers but businesses too, said Neelie Kroes, European Commission (EC) vice president responsible for the Digital Agenda.
Kroes' comments came as the EC released results of a study into how mobile users change their behaviour while roaming. Forty-seven percent of the 28,000 citizens questioned said they would never use mobile internet in another country. Nine out of 10 said they would not use email in the same way they do at home.
More than a quarter turn off their phones entirely while abroad, according to the study, with millions of others abandoning calls and switching to communicating by text messages only.
While the results of the survey are not immediately surprising, Kroes used them to push the EC's stance on roaming, as European mobile networks resist moving towards a more competitive model, which they say will dent their revenues.
"I am honestly shocked by these figures," she said. "It shows we have to finish the job and eliminate roaming charges. Consumers are limiting their phone use in extreme ways and this makes no sense for the companies either.
"It's not just a fight between holiday makers and telecoms companies," she continued. "Millions of businesses face extra costs because of roaming, and companies like app makers lose revenue too. Roaming makes no sense in a single market – it's economic madness."
Under proposed EC plans, roaming fees would be dropped altogether by 2016 as the Commission looks to create a single telecoms market for Europe.
The proposals put forward last year also said by July 2014 mobile providers would have to give their customers the option to either buy a "roam like at home" package that applies across the EU, or allow them to buy into a temporary contract with a foreign provider without changing their phone number or SIM card. Furthermore, charges for receiving calls would also be scrapped.
This policy was backed by the UK's Department for Culture, Media and Sport in December (DCMS). DCMS said it would work with the UK's telecoms regulator Ofcom and the wider industry to eliminate roaming charges by 2016.
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