EU deal to end roaming ‘rip-off’

More cuts in mobile phone roaming charges are on the way — the latest move towards reducing the gap between domestic and foreign call rates to almost nothing by 2015.

Compulsory maximum roaming rates were first imposed on mobile network operators five years ago to tackle what the EU Commission called the “roaming rip-off”.

The operators were said to be making profits of more than 200% for mobile calls made while in another EU country, and 300% or 400% for calls received.

Today the gap between domestic and “roaming” call charges has fallen by about 75% compared with 2007.

Now, after talks between MEPs, EU governments and the European Commission, final agreement is expected in May for further cuts to come into force from July.

EU Commissioner for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said: “Consumers are fed up with being ripped off by high roaming charges. 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.

“The benefits will be felt in time for the summer break — and by summer 2014, people can shop around for the best deal.”

Earlier this year, Ms Kroes voiced frustration at the fact that all operators are sticking to the high end of the call charges ceilings, effectively blocking wider competition which should drive down prices even further.

Yesterday, the commission said that until competition does reduce retail prices even further than the rates imposed by EU law, the roaming rules will progressively lower current retail price caps on voice and texting (SMS) services, with a new retail price cap for mobile data services.

The caps will stay in force as “a safeguard for consumers” until June 2017.

New charges

Under rules applicable from July, consumers travelling in a EU country other than their own will pay no more than:

* 29c per minute to make a mobile call;

* 8c to receive a call;

* 9c for a text;

* 70c per megabyte to download data or browse the internet, charged per kilobyte used.


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