EU assembly adopts new price curbs on phone calls

Wed Apr 22, 2009 10:54am EDT
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By Huw Jones

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - Using a mobile phone to send text messages or surf the Web by laptop will be up to 60 percent cheaper for travelers in the European Union under price curbs adopted by the European Parliament on Wednesday.

The caps take effect in July and are being adopted rapidly because EU parliamentarians, facing an election in June, want to show how the bloc can make a positive difference to the daily lives of its nearly 500 million citizens.

EU regulators and the executive European Commission want to end "bill shock," when business travelers or holidaymakers return home to huge charges for checking emails or surfing the Web while away.

"Using your mobile phone abroad in the EU should not cost unjustifiably more than at home, whether for making calls, sending texts or surfing the Web," EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding said in a statement.

"Europe's 37 million tourists and 110 million business travelers are waiting for the promise of the borderless single market to finally have a positive impact on their phone bills."

Operators will be allowed to charge customers a maximum of 11 euro cents (14 U.S. cents) per roamed text (SMS) message, excluding sales tax, compared with current prices of about 28 cents.

Downloading data while roaming -- buying a song using a mobile phone or using a laptop with a dongle or GSM card to access the Internet -- will cost a maximum of 1 euro per megabyte at the wholesale level, from about 1.68 euros today.

Reding said she was not worried operators would try to claw back the lost revenue by bumping up prices elsewhere. Roaming traffic had risen by nearly a third since the first roaming rules came into force, giving operators new business, she said.   Continued...