Fabian Demicoli

EU Cuts the cost of texting and mobile data services abroad

 What is roaming?

Whenever you travel abroad and make or receive a mobile phone call, send text messages (SMS – Short Message Services) or download data (for electronic mails, surfing the web, photos, music, films) from the internet using a mobile connection, you are roaming. You are roaming on a mobile network of a foreign network operator because your home provider does not provide the service in the country in which you are travelling. For providing this service, the foreign network operator will charge your home operator. This charge, known as the wholesale charge, is passed on to you at a different rate, sometimes at a surprisingly high level for the consumer.

 

End of 'roaming rip-off': cost of texting, calling, surfing the web abroad to plummet from today thanks to EU action

As of today, sending a text message from abroad in the EU costs a maximum €0.11, almost three times cheaper than the previous EU average of €0.28 (excl. VAT). To make a roamed call in another EU country must not cost more than €0.43 per minute, and no more than €0.19 to receive a call. From today, outgoing roaming calls will be charged by the second, after the first 30 seconds, rather than by the minute, and incoming calls will be charged by the second from the first second. Holidaymakers and business travellers can also surf the web, download movies or send photos with their mobile without fear of ‘bill shocks' while roaming thanks to a wholesale cap of € 1 per megabyte (MB) downloaded. All these measures are expected to cut roaming charges for EU consumers by a further 60% and increase mobile phone use. The EU first acted on roaming in 2007 reducing the cost of voice roaming calls by 70%.

"From today, all Europeans making calls or sending texts with their mobiles can experience the EU's single market without borders. The roaming-rip off is now coming to an end thanks to the determined action of the European Commission, the European Parliament and all 27 EU Member States," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding. "I expect the new EU roaming rules to make it much cheaper to surf the web on your mobile while abroad in the EU. For now, EU rules are limited to reducing inter-operator charges. I call on the mobile industry to pass these savings on to data roaming customers swiftly. The Commission and national regulators will monitor data roaming charges very carefully and assess next year whether the roaming market is finally becoming competitive."

The new EU roaming rules which are applicable as of today:

Limit the consumer price for sending a text message while abroad to €0.11 (excl. VAT), compared to a current average €0.28.

Further reduce prices for mobile roaming calls. As of today, caps are €0.43 for calls made and €0.19 for calls received abroad, falling to €0.39 and €0.15 on 1 July 2010 and to €0.35 and €0.11 on 1 July 2011 (prices per minute, excl. VAT). Until yesterday, the maximum price was €0.46 for calls made and €0.22 for calls received abroad. In summer 2005, before EU action, a roamed call in the EU could cost around €1.70 per minute for a German roaming in Austria, €1.47 for a Briton roaming in Italy and €2.50 for a Belgian calling from Cyprus (MEMO/05/247).

Introduce per-second billing after 30 seconds for roamed calls made and from the first second for calls received abroad. Until now, consumers paid up to 24% more than the time actually used making or receiving calls.

Reduce the cost of surfing the web and downloading movies or video programs with a mobile phone while abroad with a new wholesale cap of €1 per MB downloaded, compared to an average wholesale price of € 1.68 per MB, with peaks in Ireland  (€6.82), Greece (€5.30) and Estonia (€5.10). The wholesale cap for downloading will fall during the next two years: to €0.80 in 2010 and €0.50 in 2011. Consumers will be informed on what they will pay for data services, as the new rules require mobile operators to provide (via an SMS or pop-up window) free, country-specific information on roaming charges to their customers when they enter another Member State and use data services.

The new rules will also protect consumers from "bill shocks" by introducing a cut-off mechanism once the bill reaches €50, unless they choose another cut-off limit (recently, a German downloading a TV programme while roaming in France faced a bill of €46,000). Operators have until March 2010 to put this cut-off limit in place.

The new roaming rules, which build on the first EU Roaming Regulation (IP/07/870), will apply until summer 2012. The European Parliament and Council have asked the Commission to report on the new rules' functioning by summer 2010. The Commission could then propose further rules, if required, by the end of June 2011.

Background:
The 2007 EU Roaming Regulation, introduced "Euro tariff" caps for calls made and received while travelling in the EU. As a result, Euro tariff roaming consumers saved on average 70% compared to 2005, before the EU acted. In 2008, after reviewing the roaming rules, the Commission proposed extending them for 3 more years, with new rules for text messages and data services. The European Parliament approved, by a large majority, the new EU roaming rules in April 2009, followed by the Council of EU Telecoms Ministers on 8 June. Since the present Commission took office in 2004, mobile phone use has grown from 84.6% to 119% of the total EU population.

For an overview of roaming tariffs by EU country, see the EU Roaming Website:
http://ec.europa.eu/information_society/activities/roaming/index_en.htm until March 2010 to put the cut-off mechanism in place. Source: European Commission representation in Malta

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