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Fair deal for mobile users – EU acts again - 17/07/2008

Mobile phone displaying text message, on top of 2 passports, lying on a map of Europe

Commission announces crackdown on ring tone scams and high charges for text messaging and mobile websurfing across EU borders.

You’re on holiday in Italy and you want to share the thrill of seeing the Colosseum for the first time. What do you do? If you’re like many people, you whip out your mobile and text a friend or relative back home.

What you may not know is that texting across borders carries a big price tag in Europe. A single message can cost a French tourist in Italy €0.30. A Czech could pay €0.42. British holidaymakers in Spain could pay up to €0.63.

Telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding said the charges were unjustified and should be capped at €0.11, down from an average price of €0.29 in the 27-member EU.

“EU citizens should be free to text across borders without being ripped off,” Reding said. “Roaming charges have already drained the wallets of mobile customers too much.”

Proposals for laws forcing firms to slash fees are due this autumn. It would be the second time in a year that the Commission has moved to help mobile phone users. The EU capped prices for voice calls made abroad within the EU in June 2007.

The crackdown follows the industry’s failure to take voluntary action. Only one operator answered the commission’s call in February for lower roaming fees for text messages.

The 2.5 billion roaming messages sent every year by mobile users in the EU cost texters over 10 times more than the messages they send when at home.

The Commission will also seek to put an end to the nasty surprises that can hit roaming customers when they get the bill for surfing the net via a mobile connection.

Besides roaming fees, the commission is investigating the misrepresentation of prices for downloadable ring tones. A year-long sweep of more than 500 websites across the EU, Norway and Iceland found that 80% warrant further investigation for possible breaches of consumer law. A similar check on airlines was carried out in 2007.

Among other problems, people downloading supposedly free ring tones were being lured into subscriptions. Many of the websites target children and young people.

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