Europe paves way for data roaming caps

The European Parliament this week voted in support of the European Commission’s proposals to place price caps on mobile data charges incurred by consumers when roaming in the EU.

This means European consumers could see a reduction in the cost of sending a text message or downloading data while overseas by mid-summer.

In September 2008, the EC proposed caps that would ensure that consumers in the EU do not have to pay more than Eur0.11 per roamed SMS in the EU, prior to VAT. At present, SMS roaming charges in the EU are on average Eur0.28 per roamed SMS and can go up to over Eur0.80 in some countries.

The proposals also include measures to reduce the cost of web surfing and data downloading via mobile, working on a cap on interoperator charges of Eur0.50 per MB of roamed data. To date, the Commission had been working with a proposal which capped interoperator charges at Eur1 per MB.

As another way of avoiding the “bill shock” experienced by many consumers when returning from overseas trips, the European authority also voted for an obligation of operators to charge roamed calls by the second from the first second of a mobile call abroad, versus a set rate for the first 30 seconds, with per second billing to follow from the 31st second.

The Commission has identified that consumers currently pay around 20 per cent too much for roamed calls abroad because of imprecise billing methods.

“Yesterday’s vote in the European Parliament is very good news for consumers all over Europe. In view of the current economic downturn, the Parliament is right in wanting to strengthen the purchasing power of European consumers as of this summer, which will encourage them to make even more use of their mobile phones”, said Viviane Reding, the EU’s telecoms commissioner.

The European Parliament will take another vote in on the roaming proposal in late April, and if the Council agrees with the content of the vote, new roaming rules could come into effect in July.


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