Calling within Europe will be cheaper from May 2019

Dobrindt fordert, es dürfe für den Verbraucher "keinen Unterschied machen, ob er sich beim Nutzen digitaler Angebote über Ländergrenzen hinweg bewegt". [© Highways Agency (CC BY 2.0)]

Telephone operators will no longer be able to charge more than 19 euro cents per minute for calls within Europe from 1 May 2019. The end of roaming charges has already boosted the phone usage of holiday-makers. EURACTIV France reports.

It will no longer be possible for telephone operators to overcharge calls and texts between European countries.

This measure, adopted by MEPs at the plenary session on 14 November, is expected to significantly reduce the phone bills of Europeans communicating across borders. This is because, despite the adoption of rules to end roaming charges from mid-June 2017, some calls within Europe continue to be on a high surcharge.

Currently, calls from abroad to your home country are no longer on a surcharge. But, conversely, calls from your home country to other European countries incur significant surcharges. As a result, a call made by a French person from France to Belgium will be expensive, whereas the same call from Belgium will not be on a surcharge.

Mobile roaming fees disappear, but MEPs want more EU rules

European mobile phone contracts are required to charge domestic rates for calls, SMS and data use when users travel in the EU starting today (15 June), capping off a ten-year fight to get rid of roaming fees.

This imbalance will come to an end in the spring. MEPs have set a limit for cross-border rates of 19 cents per minute for calls and 6 cents for texts, starting from 15 May 2019.

“Cheaper phone calls are a victory for all EU citizens,” said Czech MEP Dita Charanzová from the Group of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE).

“It’s very good news that consumers will no longer have to worry about excessive costs when calling another EU country from home. This was the logical next step after the end of roaming charges. It does not make sense that you might pay less to call a friend who is another country than if you made that call from home,” commented Monique Goyens, the Director General of The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).

Capping rates will make calls between member states more affordable.

“This represents a great difference to the rates currently set in many European countries. In France, this measure will divide prices by two or four depending on the operator, by five in Belgium or seven in Italy,” explained Belgian socialist MEP Marc Tarabella, who is responsible for consumer protection.

However, while the gap is getting smaller, calls will still be on a surcharge. This imbalance is destined to disappear, said Tarabella.

“I will continue to fight for national and international calls to ultimately be the same price. These additional costs from a different time have to disappear,” he stated.

End of roaming charges in EU, but what about UK?

Roaming charges will cease to exist for the EU as of 15 June. But if on 23 June, the British people votes to leave the EU, there is a high chance that calls between the British islands and the member states could become very expensive.

This new decision, which supports affordable communications services, should have an impact on Europeans’ mobile data consumption, as has already been the case with the end of data roaming charges.

While 75% of French people were used to limiting their phone use on holidays in other European countries, the end of roaming charges has led to phone use skyrocketing, according to data published by the French regulatory authority for electronic communication and post (Arcep).

Phone traffic and the number of texts sent by French people while roaming has increased by approximately 40% between the second half of 2016 and the second half of 2017. Moreover, data roaming consumption has virtually quadrupled during the same period.

Text warning system

Another measure adopted by MEPs is a text warning system or mobile app that would be activated in the event of an attack or natural disaster in order to warn European citizens.

In practical terms, the warning system should address European citizens who are in areas concerned by imminent threats. The member states will have 42 months to establish this system once the directive has entered into force.

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