20 october 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with Minister of Communications and Mass Media Igor Shchegolev and Head of the Federal Antimonopoly Service Igor Artemyev

The discussion focused on roaming service fees, which the prime minister had earlier instructed the FAS and the Ministry of Communications and Mass Media to review. The heads of the two agencies told Mr Putin that roaming fees would be heavily cut from December 1, and some companies would do it even earlier.

Transcript of the beginning of the meeting:

Vladimir Putin: Good afternoon. The Federal Antimonopoly Service is currently concerned with price control on the food market and I presume this work will continue and bring noticeable results. At the same time, there are some other issues to which I have previously drawn your attention. One of them is the concern of many mobile telephone users about what many believe is overly high fees for roaming services. This question was also put to me as I delivered a government report to the State Duma last spring. I asked you to look into the matter and to submit your proposals on what we can do to remedy the situation. A similar directive was given to the Communications Ministry. Now what are the results?

Igor Shchegolev: Mr Putin, it is true that many mobile phone users wonder why despite a highly developed network our roaming fees are considerably higher than in neigbouring countries. This has been the experience not only of people travelling abroad, but also of those who visited the Commonwealth of Independent States and travelled across Russia. We made a close study of how this service is regulated in the European Union, looked at the experience of neighbouring states and came to the conclusion that the fees in Russia are significantly higher than could be justified. We entered into a dialogue with our mobile communications companies management, and the arguments put forward by the Federal Antimonopoly Service were very useful in convincing them to revise their position and their attitude to this issue.

Vladimir Putin: Go ahead, Mr Artemyev.

Igor Artemyev: On your instructions, Mr Putin, we have examined the issue and opened an antimonopoly investigation, which lasted for several months. We charged the companies with overpricing and setting a so-called high monopolyprice. We gathered evidence. Together with the Communications Ministry we tried to convince the companies to collaborate with the antimonopoly authorities and the Ministry and reduce roaming fees of their own free will.

I would like to report that starting December 1, all companies, and some even earlier, will dramatically cut roaming fees both inside Russia, between its cities, and in all CIS countries. In addition, the companies will soon send out proposals to their partners in Western Europe and North America to reduce charges for international roaming not only in the CIS, but also globally.

I would like to stress that we carried out this work in cooperation with the antimonopoly agencies in other countries, above all Kazakhstan, as well as Ukraine and other CIS states, which were also involved. The Inter-State Council on Antimonopoly Policy repeatedly took up this issue. What we now have is the outcome of our collective efforts, simultaneous investigations and parallel dealings with mobile communications companies.

Vladimir Putin: As I see from the documents you submitted to me, the cut in roaming fees is significant. Three main companies will voluntarily reduce charges for voice communications by 33% to 50%, text messages by 66% and mobile internet by 50% to 75%.

Igor Artemyev: That's right, Mr Putin. But these are international roaming charges. The figures for Russia are approximately the same, and in some cases even more impressive.

Vladimir Putin: Good.