Sending a text message from abroad in the EU now costs a maximum of 11 cent – three times cheaper than the previous EU average of 28 cent, excluding VAT.
Under EU rules, making a roamed call in another EU country must now not cost more than 43 cent per minute, and no more than 19 cent to receive a call. 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
Also 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 will also be able to 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. This compares to the current 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.
All these measures are expected to cut roaming charges for EU consumers by a further 60pc and increase mobile phone use, said Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner for Information Society and the Media.
“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,” Commissioner Reding explained.
“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 onto 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 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.
By John Kennedy