EU plans to lower roaming charges in Europe by July


MOBILE PHONE users will pay lower roaming charges when travelling in European countries following a deal struck by EU powers to cut international fees for calls, text messages and data services.

The agreement is subject to the approval of MEPs and member states but it should come into force from July, in time for the peak holiday season.

Although price caps for calls and texts are already in place, the latest plan will, for the first time, place limits on the price of logging on to the internet from smartphones, netbooks and tablet computers.

The draft agreement between a European Parliament committee and the Danish presidency of the Council of Ministers also includes structural measures to boost competition in the roaming markets.

The European Commission, originator of the plan, said overhauling this market had the potential to be as significant as the liberalisation of the air-travel market in the 1990s.

“Consumers are fed up with being ripped off by high roaming charges,” said EU digital agenda commissioner Neelie Kroes.

“The new roaming deal gives us a long-term structural solution, with lower prices, more choice and a new smart approach for data and internet browsing.”

The price per downloaded megabyte would be no more than 70 cent before Vat from this July, 45 cent from July 2013 and 20 cent from July 2014.

The pre-Vat price of making a call in any other EU country will drop from a maximum of 35 cent a minute now to 29 cent next July, 24 cent in July 2013 and 19 cent in July 2014.

Similarly, the pre-Vat price of receiving a call in any other EU country will drop from a maximum of 11 cent a minute now to eight cent in July, 7 cent one year later and then to 5 cent in 2014.

The maximum price for text messages will drop to 9 cent before Vat in July, from 11 cent, and to 8 cent next year and 6 cent in 2014.

Structural measures due to take effect from 2014 will give consumers the right to shop around for roaming services when travelling in Europe.

This will include the right to sign up for a separate roaming contract, one that is different from the consumer’s domestic contract, while keeping the same phone number.

Customers will also have the right to directly select a local mobile network for data roaming in the country that they are visiting.

From July, companies which do not operate their own mobile networks will have the right to access other operators’ networks at regulated wholesale prices to provide roaming services.

“This will create more competition between operators, and so increase the incentives for them to offer customers more attractive roaming prices and services,” the European Commission said.