EU Plans to Cap Data Roaming Charges

The European Union (EU) has confirmed that from 1 July the maximum data-roaming charge users can incur from mobile operators will be €50 (£40).

The move is part of the EU's drive to prevent users from succumbing to 'bill-shock' after unwittingly running up huge bills while using their devices abroad.

As part of the move mobile operators will also have to inform customers when they have reached 80 per cent of their data-roaming bill limit. This limit can be set below the €50 maximum if customers prefer.

Furthermore, once the limit is reached the operator must then cut off mobile internet access, unless a customer indicates otherwise when they receive the 80 per cent alert message.

Citizens will also get more data for their money, with the wholesale cap that operators are allowed to charge each other for data roaming being reduced from €1 to €0.80 per MB downloaded. This is set to fall again to €0.50 in July 2011.

The EU hopes savings at wholesale level will be passed on by operators to consumers in the form of lower prices for surfing the web with a mobile phone.

Additionally, the maximum price for making a roaming call will be cut to 39 cents per minute (excluding VAT), from 43 cents, while receiving a call will cost a maximum of 15 cents per minute (excluding VAT), instead of 19 cents.

Commission vice-president for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said the move would "make the EU's telecoms markets more competitive".

"There will be no more bill shocks for tourists or business travellers surfing the internet with smartphones or laptops while in another EU country. The EU is also cutting the cost of roaming calls for travellers," she said.

The EU added that the changes meant the cost of making and receiving calls when abroad in the EU is now 73 per cent cheaper than in 2005, when it first set about addressing the issue of expensive roaming charges.

The issue of mobile roaming charges has long been an issue in the industry, with price comparison site Broadband Expert arguing last year that not enough was being done by operators to cut excessive charges, and suggesting that they should be cut altogether.

In May, Vodafone also cut its mobile browsing charges and introduced a text alert service to help users stay on top of their mobile roaming spend.

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