Cost of roaming texts, calls and data services to plummet from 1 July

A text message sent from abroad in the EU will cost no more than €0.11 as of 1 July, instead of €0.28 today, thanks to today’s new ruling from the European Parliament.

The times where consumers had to expect bill shocks for downloading a picture or a movie with a mobile phone while roaming in the EU are over. The European Parliament, in its plenary session in Strasbourg, voted by a large majority in favour of new EU rules on SMS and data roaming, proposed by the European Commission in September 2008. The Parliament also voted for further cuts in the price of mobile phone calls while roaming in another EU country.

The present cap for a mobile phone call made abroad will progressively drop from €0.46 to €0.35 per minute by July 2011, and from €0.22 today to €0.11 for mobile calls received while roaming abroad.

Mobile operators will also be required to bill roaming calls by the second from the thirty first second at the latest, which will end the current practice under which consumers are overcharged by up to 24%.

As the Council of EU Telecoms Ministers has already signalled its agreement with the new roaming rules, this vote paves the way for an entry into force of the new rules just in time for the summer holidays. European consumers are expected to save up to 60% on their bill for using a mobile phone abroad in the EU.

José Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, stated: “I welcome the strong support the European Parliament has today given the Commission’s proposal for creating a single telecoms markets for all Europeans, whether they are crossing a border as tourists or as business travellers. After this vote, Europe is now clearly the most attractive continent in the world for mobile phone users. I expect this to translate very swiftly into even stronger growth for mobile data services in the EU.”

EU Telecoms Commissioner, Viviane Reding, added: “Today’s vote marks the definite end of the roaming rip off in Europe. Thanks to the strong support of the European Parliament and the Council, the new roaming rules were agreed in the record time of just seven months. Just in time for the summer holidays, European citizens will now be able to see the single market without borders on their phone bills.”

Consumer Commissioner, Meglena Kuneva, said: “In times of economic downturn, strengthening the purchasing power of consumers is a strong instrument for a speedy recovery. This is why today’s vote will empower consumers and further stimulate the take up of mobile telephony in Europe.”

The new EU roaming rules endorsed by the Parliament today will: cap the price that consumers can be charged for sending a text message while abroad at €0.11 (excluding VAT), compared to a current average of €0.28 (with prices per roamed SMS above €0.35 in the Netherlands and in Portugal); Substantially reduce data roaming charges (the cost of surfing the web or downloading movies with a mobile phone while abroad) by introducing a wholesale cap of €1 per megabyte downloaded, compared to an average wholesale price of € 1.68 per megabyte, with peaks in Ireland (€6.82), Greece (€5.30) and in Estonia (€5.10). The wholesale cap will fall to €0.80 in 2010 and to €0.50 in 2011; Protect consumers from bill shocks by allowing customers to choose a cut-off mechanism once the bill reaches €50, unless the consumer opts for a higher limit. Operators will have until March 2010 to put these transparency measures in place. Recently, a German consumer who down¬loaded a TV programme while roaming in France was faced with a bill of €46,000.

Also: Further reduce price caps for mobile roaming calls. Now at €0.46 for calls made and €0.22 for calls received abroad, the caps will go down to €0.43 for calls made and €0.19 for calls received abroad on 1 July 2009, to €0.39 and €0.15 on 1 July 2010 and to €0.35 and €0.11 by 1 July 2011 (all prices per minute, excluding VAT); Introduce the principle of per-second billing after the first 30 seconds for roamed calls made and from the first second for calls received while abroad. At present, consumers are paying around 20% more than the time they actually consume when making or receiving calls.

Following today’s Parliament vote, the new EU Roaming Regulation will become directly applicable law throughout all 27 EU Member States on 1 July 2009.

The new roaming rules, which add to a first EU regulation on voice roaming adopted in 2007, will apply until summer 2012. The European Parliament has asked the Commission to report on the functioning of the new rules again by summer 2010. The Commission could then propose further rules, if required, by the end of June 2011.

“The development of the roaming market will be kept under close EU scrutiny over the next three years,” said Commissioner Reding. “I very much hope that the mobile industry will understand this message. The ball is now in their court if they want to show that there can be healthy competition in the roaming market. The best proof of this would be if attractive voice and data roaming packages appear on the market very soon.”