EU Approves Limits On Mobile Data Charges


Cuts to roaming charges have been approved including data rates which should benefit smartphone users

European Commission (EC) rules on mobile roaming charges that could see call costs cut by up to 60 percent have been approved by 27 members of the EU.

In a statement released this week, the EC said that as well as tackling voice and text charges, limits will also be imposed on data prices will should benefit users accessing email and other applications on smartphones for example.

The EC has introduced a wholesale cap of €1 per megabyte downloaded, compared to an average EU wholesale price of € 1.68 per megabyte, with peaks in Ireland (€6.82), Greece (€5.30) and in Estonia (€5.10). “The wholesale price cap will fall to €0.80 in 2010 and to €0.50 in 2011 and should lead to further cuts in customers’ bills,” the EC said in a statement.

Following the approval by the EU’s Council of Ministers this week, the roaming rules will become effective as of 1 July in all 27 EU Member States, the EC said.

“Today’s unanimous adoption by the Council of Ministers means that the new roaming rules have passed the very last procedural hurdle and will now bring instant benefits to consumers as of 1 July,” said EU telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding. “The Council thereby follows the example set by the European Parliament that voted in favour of the new rules with an overwhelming majority in April. This is great news for European citizens who will be able to go on holiday this summer and roam with peace of mind and without the fear of ‘bill shocks’.”

After the President of the European Parliament and the Council Presidency formally sign the regulation on 18 June, it will be published in the EU’s Official Journal a few days later.

According to the EC, as well as tackling data costs the new EU roaming rules 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 customers from the Netherlands and Portugal paying more than €0.35 for each roamed SMS).
  • 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 have until March 2010 to put these transparency measures in place.
  • Further reduce prices for mobile roaming calls. Now capped 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, falling 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, under per-minute billing methods consumers are paying around 20 percent more than the time they actually consume when making or receiving calls.