Using a mobile phone is about to get cheaper again for the tens of millions of people who cross EU borders every day.
EU lawmakers have voted to reduce the price telecom companies can charge for calls you make or receive with your mobile phone while in another country – also known as roaming. Similar caps will be introduced for text messages and data services, and then lowered over the next three years.
Just in time for the summer holidays, the changes mark another victory for European consumers, who - thanks to the current cap on voice calls - are already paying 60% less for conversations with their handsets while traveling in the EU.
From this July, sending a text from abroad in the EU will cost you 11 cents maximum, less than half the current average of 29 cents (far more than texters pay at home). Receiving a text in another EU country will remain free.
The maximum price for a mobile call will also fall, from 46 to 43 cents a minute. The ceiling will drop to 39 in July 2010 and 35 cents in 2011 - a total saving of 11 cents. Mobile users will also benefit from lower charges for calls received while abroad. That cap will drop from 22 to 11 cents over the three years.
All prices exclude VAT.
Charges for other roaming services - like sending an email or picture or surfing the internet – will be capped at the wholesale level. That is, the ceilings will apply to rates one operator charges another.
The new rules also aim to end the nasty surprises that can hit roaming customers when they get the bill for surfing the net via a mobile connection. Customers will be able to opt free of charge for a maximum monthly tab (€50 by default). Providers will have to warn their customers when they are close to reaching the limit. The EU first capped cross-border mobile calls in 2007 after finding they were on average four times more expensive than domestic calls and that prices varied widely from country to country.