In a move that’s sure to come as welcome news for consumers in the run-up to the summer holidays, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers have managed to broker a deal that will allow mobile phone, smartphone and tablet users to avail of much lower costs when using their devices abroad in EU member states.
According to the deal, prices for roaming will be lowered to 29 cent a minute for calls and 70 cent per megabyte for internet access, as of July 2012. And apparently prices will keep going down to 19 cent a minute for calls and 20 cent per megabyte for internet access by 2014.
Text messages will cost a maximum of nine cent as of July 2012 and five cent as of July 2014.
In addition, the charges for voice calls will be capped. Received calls will be limited to five cent per minute and outgoing calls to 19 cent, both as of July 2014.
European mobile users will also be able to buy roaming services from companies other than their home service provider, while keeping the same number.
And consumers will also be protected better when leaving Europe because operators will have to warn them if their bill approaches €50.
"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," said Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice-president for the Digital Agenda.
MEPs are due to formally adopt the new Roaming III Regulation at its May plenary session. If they are approved, the lower rates will apply from 1 July 2012.
MEP Sean Kelly has welcomed the EU agreement on slashing mobile roaming charges.
“This latest agreement is a further step towards the July implementation of lower prices for phone calls, text messages and for the first time ever – data downloads," said Kelly, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Industry Committee.
Last month Kelly used his position on the committee to urge greater reductions in mobile data roaming fees.
Today’s EU deal on roaming came after some hard discussions between the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers.
The citizens’ initiative Europeans for Fair Roaming, which had been campaigning on the roaming issue, said that it welcomed the agreement, even though it hoped for a fast reduction in prices.
Bengt Beier, co-ordinator of the 150,000-strong citizens’ initiative Europeans for Fair Roaming, said he was happy about this compromise.
“While we would have hoped for a faster reduction in prices so that consumers could enjoy lower prices this year, it is great to hear that the EU will continue its push for low prices for roaming. For a short time, it looked like some governments were more interested in corporate interests than in consumer-friendly prices. But the deal struck will not only prevent consumers from suffering high prices but will also help the European economy in general."
Europeans for Fair Roaming initially started out as a Facebook campaign. It has since expanded to a network representing tens of thousands of Europeans.
The network calls on the EU to end the practice of mobile phone operators charging high roaming fees for using mobile phones in other EU states.
Paul Lambert, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media also spoke about the EU decision to re-shape the European roaming market.
"Today’s agreement forms the basis of what looks likely to become the most profound change in the roaming market operators have to deal with since European roaming regulation first came into effect in 2007," said Lambert.
"They not only cover the separation of roaming services from home mobile services, but they also agree to prolonging the ceiling on the price operators can charge for voice and SMS roaming rates, as well as introducing a new cap on data pricing," he pointed out.
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