Mobile roaming costs fall as EC announces end to rip-offs

By Paul Meller, IDG News Service |  Mobile & Wireless, roaming charges

The cost of calling and sending text messages on your mobile phone from abroad in the European Union became cheaper Wednesday, as the new roaming regulation came into force.

Similarly, the price for receiving calls while abroad and downloading data from the Internet also fell thanks to the new law.

"The roaming-rip off is now coming to an end," said telecommunications Commissioner Viviane Reding, who pioneered the reductions, in a statement Wednesday.

The upper price limit for calling from abroad, or roaming, is now €0.43 per minute, down from €0.46. The ceiling will drop to €0.39 next July and again to €0.35 in July 2011. The upper limit for receiving calls while abroad is set at €0.19 euros. The limits apply for subscribers from one European Union country travelling in another E.U. member state.

In addition, calls will be charged per second after the 31st second of a call, rather than per minute as they have been in the past. Per minute charging resulted in users overpaying by an average 24 percent, the Commission said.

The price consumers can be charged for sending a text message while abroad is capped at €0.11 excluding value-added tax (VAT), compared to an average of €0.28 until now.

Meanwhile, the cost of downloading material such as music, photos and text from the Internet via the mobile while abroad is capped at a wholesale rate of €1 per megabyte downloaded, compared to an average wholesale price across the E.U. of €1.68 per megabyte.

Retail prices are expected to follow suit. Reding said that if the wholesale reduction isn't passed on to users then further intervention may be necessary.

"The Commission and national regulators will monitor data roaming charges very carefully and assess next year whether the roaming market is finally becoming competitive," she said.

The wholesale data roaming cap will fall again to €0.80 next July and to €0.50 in 2011.

In 2007 the E.U. passed its first roaming regulation which introduced a "Euro tariff" cap for calls made and received while travelling in the E.U. As a result of that first price cap, users saved on average 70 percent compared to roaming prices in 2005.

Last year, after reviewing the impact of the first roaming regulation, the Commission decided to go further by lowering the cap on making and receiving calls, and capping the cost of text messages and data services too.

The Commission's battle against high roaming costs has been a victory for the Commission, which often struggles to win much support from citizens for its initiatives.

The new regulation can be found here.

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