End of ‘roaming rip-off’

From the 1 July, sending a text message from abroad in the EU will cost a maximum Euro 0.11, almost three times cheaper than the previous EU average of Euro 0.28 (excluding VAT).

To make a roamed call in another EU country must not cost more than Euro 0.43 per minute, and no more than Euro 0.19 to receive a call. From the same date, outgoing roaming calls will be charged by the second, after the first 30 seconds, rather than by the minute, and incoming calls will be charged by the second from the first second.

Holidaymakers and business travellers can also surf the web, download movies or send photos with their mobile without fear of bill shocks while roaming thanks to a wholesale cap of Euro 1 per megabyte (MB) downloaded.

All these measures are expected to cut roaming charges for EU consumers by a further 60% and increase mobile phone use. The EU first acted on roaming in 2007 reducing the cost of voice roaming calls by 70%.

Said EU Telecoms Commissioner, Viviane Reding: “From the 1 July, all Europeans making calls or sending texts with their mobiles can experience the EU’s single market without borders. The roaming rip off is now coming to an end thanks to the determined action of the European Commission, the European Parliament and all 27 EU Member States. Expect the new EU roaming rules to make it much cheaper to surf the web on your mobile while abroad in the EU.

“For now, EU rules are limited to reducing inter-operator charges, she continued. “I call on the mobile industry to pass these savings on to data roaming customers swiftly. The Commission and national regulators will monitor data roaming charges very carefully and assess next year whether the roaming market is finally becoming competitive.”

The new EU roaming rules which are applicable as of 1 July:

Limit the consumer price for sending a text message while abroad to Euro 0.11(excl. VAT), compared to a current average Euro 0.28

Further reduce prices for mobile roaming calls. As of 1 July, caps are Euro 0.43 for calls made and Euro 0.19 for calls received abroad, falling to Euro 0.39 and Euro 0.15 on 1 July 2010 and to Euro 0.35 and Euro 0.11 on 1 July 2011 (prices per minute, excl. VAT). Until 30 June, the maximum price is Euro 0.46 for calls made and Euro 0.22 for calls received abroad. In summer 2005, before EU action, a roamed call in the EU could cost around Euro 1.70 per minute for a German roaming in Austria, Euro 1.47 for a Briton roaming in Italy and Euro 2.50 for a Belgian calling from Cyprus.

Introduce per-second billing after 30 seconds for roamed calls made and from the first second for calls received abroad. Until now, consumers paid up to 24% more than the time actually used making or receiving calls.

Reduce the cost of surfing the web and downloading movies or video programs with a mobile phone while abroad with a new wholesale cap of Euro 1 per MB downloaded, compared to an average wholesale price of Euro 1.68 per MB, with peaks in Ireland (Euro 6.82), Greece (Euro 5.30) and Estonia (Euro 5.10). The wholesale cap for downloading will fall during the next two years: to Euro 0.80 in 2010 and Euro 0.50 in 2011. Consumers will be informed on what they will pay for data services, as the new rules require mobile operators to provide (via an SMS or pop-up window) free, country-specific information on roaming charges to their customers when they enter another Member State and use data services.

The new rules will also protect consumers from bill shocks by introducing a cut-off mechanism once the bill reaches Euro 50, unless they choose another cut-off limit (recently, a German downloading a TV programme while roaming in France faced a bill of Euro 46,000). Operators have until March 2010 to put this cut-off limit in place.

The new roaming rules, which build on the first EU Roaming Regulation, will apply until summer 2012. The European Parliament and Council have asked the Commission to report on the new rules’ functioning by summer 2010. The Commission could then propose further rules, if required, by the end of June 2011.

Since the present Commission took office in 2004, mobile phone use has grown from 84.6% to 119% of the total EU population.

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