Using a mobile phone to send text messages or surf the Web by laptop will become up to 60 percent cheaper while travelling in the European Union under price curbs adopted by the European Parliament yesterday (22 April).
The caps take effect in July and are being adopted rapidly as EU parliamentarians, facing elections in June, want to show how the bloc can make a positive difference to the daily lives of its nearly 500 million inhabitants.
EU regulators and the executive European Commission want to end “bill shocks”, whereby business travellers or holidaymakers return home to huge charges for checking emails or surfing the Web while away.
Operators will be allowed to charge customers a maximum of €11 cents per roamed text message (SMS), excluding sales tax, compared with current prices of about €28 cents.
Downloading data while roaming will cost a maximum of €1 per megabyte at the wholesale level, falling to €80 cents per megabyte from July 2010 and €50 cents per megabyte from July 2011. The current average wholesale price is about €1.68 per megabyte, with peaks in Ireland (€6.82), Greece (€5.30) and Estonia (€5.10).
Moreover, roaming customers would be able to opt free of charge for a maximum financial limit from March 2010. Providers will have to warn their customers when 80% of the agreed limit has been reached. Once the limit is reached, another notification should be sent, indicating the procedure to be followed if the customer wishes to continue data roaming. If the user does not respond, the provider should cease all data roaming services.
Previous legislation had left out text messaging and data downloading, like checking emails on a laptop or mobile phone while outside a home state.
Roamed voice calls
The new legislation will extend by three years to 2012 price caps that were introduced in 2007 on roamed voice calls – or when mobile phone users make or receive calls outside their home state in the EU.
The text stipulates that home operators may charge their customers for outgoing roaming phone calls:
- From July 2009: a maximum of €43 cents per minute (excluding VAT);
- from July 2010: a maximum of €39 cents per minute (excluding VAT), and;
- from July 2011: a maximum of €35 cents per minute (excluding VAT).
For incoming roaming phone calls, home operators may charge their customers:
- From July 2009: a maximum of €19 cents per minute (excluding VAT);
- from July 2010: a maximum of €15 cents per minute (excluding VAT), and;
- from July 2011: a maximum of €11 cents per minute (excluding VAT).
Per-second billing after 30 seconds
Nevertheless, the text allows operators to impose an initial charging period of 30 seconds, after which the per-second system will be applied. This means that if an operator wants to use this advantage, a roamed phone call lasting 15, three or 27 seconds will always be charged as though it had lasted 30 seconds.
According to the Commission, consumers are at present paying around 20% more than the time they actually consume when making or receiving calls.
The European Parliament and EU states reached an informal deal last month, which the Parliament adopted into law yesterday (EURACTIV 25/03/2009).
Parliament voted 646 in favour and 22 against. EU states are expected to give their formal endorsement to the legislation in the coming weeks.
(EURACTIV with Reuters.)