The European Parliament voted today by a large majority in favour of capping mobile phone roaming costs across the EU.
From July of this year, overseas calls made on mobile phones will drop from 46 cent, reaching 35 cent by July 2011. Immediately from 1 July, calls made abroad will drop to 43 cent.
The price of calls received while roaming abroad will fall from 22 cent per minute today to 11 cent. But immediately from July 1, the cap on calls received abroad will be reduced to 19 cent.
The retail price of sending text messages in the EU will fall to 11 cent in July, compared with the current price of 29 cent a text.
The Parliament also voted to substantially reduce data roaming charges. The cost of surfing the web or downloading movies on a mobile phone will have a wholesale cap of €1 per megabyte, compared to an average wholesale price of €1.68 per megabyte.
Mobile data peaks in Ireland have reached as high as €6.82, while in Greece and Estonia they reached €5.30 and €5.10 respectively.
The wholesale data cap will fall to 80 cent in 2010 and to 50 cent in 2011.
The EU Commissioner for the Information Society, Viviane Reding (pictured), said the move will protect consumers from bill shocks when they get back from holidays, especially due to a cut-off mechanism once the bill reaches €50, unless the consumer opts for a higher limit.
The EU Parliament also moved to introduce the principle of per-second billing after the first 30 seconds for roamed calls made, and from the first second for calls received abroad. At present, consumers are paying around 20pc more than the time they actually consume when making or receiving calls abroad.
Some 119pc of Europe’s 460 million people now use mobile phones.
“The development of the roaming market will be kept under close EU scrutiny over the next three years,” said Commissioner Reding. “I very much hope that the mobile industry will understand this message.
“The ball is now in their court if they want to show that there can be healthy competition in the roaming market. The best proof of this would be if attractive voice and data roaming packages appear on the market very soon,” Reding said.
The decision was welcomed in Ireland by the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan TD.
He said: “Customers should not have to pay exorbitant prices for using their mobile phone in the EU. The EU has been opened up in recent decades and we are all travelling more frequently. It is absolutely right that, as active EU citizens, those in all member states pay broadly similar costs.
“Ireland has strongly supported the regulation of mobile phone roaming charges and we have been working closely with our EU partners on this,” Minister Ryan said.
By John Kennedy
Pictured: EU Commissioner for the Information Society, Viviane Reding