The European Commission plans to take steps to prevent mobile phone operators from charging users extraordinarily high roaming charges.

European Information Society Commissioner Vivian Reding is set to announce that she will put forward a regulation banning operators from charging higher roaming fees - charges for one mobile operator to use another's company's network - for international calls than they do for national roaming.

The Commission is the European Union's executive branch, and also is the EU's anti-trust and regulatory authority. The regulation on roaming charges would have to be ratified by the governments of the EU's 25 member states and members of the European Parliament. But Commission staff believes that the measure could be agreed to relatively quickly because it would directly benefit EU consumers and could come into force in the second half of 2007.

However, some European companies are expected to try and block the move. "We expect Deutsche Telekom to do some lobbying," said one Commission official.

Reding's move comes after the Commission carried out an intensive study of roaming charges including setting up a website where consumers could compare charges. Despite repeated warnings to companies to lower their prices, the Commission found that there had been no significant improvements and decided to take action.

Roaming charges vary widely across the EU. The highest rate found by the Commission was €13.08 (US$15.06) a minute charged to a Maltese consumer for four minutes roaming in Latvia.

The proposal for a regulation is expected to be published by the Commission before the summer.