Europeans can now look forward to lower bills for using their mobile phones in other EU countries. An EU rule capping the extra costs for phone calls and Internet surfing abroad, or 'roaming fees', has come into force.
Europeans will now pay less for calls from other EU countries
Thanks to a new European Commission cap, it's now cheaper for people with European mobile phones to make calls or surf the Internet in other EU countries.
As of Thursday, July 1, the maximum extra cost of making a call abroad - usually called a 'roaming fee' by mobile phone providers - has been reduced from 43 euro cents ($0.53) per minute to 39 cents. The extra cost of receiving a call has also dropped by four cents, to 15 cents per minute.
"I am determined to make the telecoms markets more competitive," vice president of the European Commission Neelie Kroes, who is also in charge of the telecoms sector, said in a statement.
The new legislation also limits the extra costs of surfing the Internet while abroad. The costs of data uploads and dowloads have been limited to 80 euro cents per megabyte from one euro per megabyte. Furthermore, mobile phone operators must automatically cut off customers who incur an online bill of 50 euros (excluding sales tax) in any one sitting, unless individual consumers specifically request a higher or lower limit.
"There will be no more bill shocks for tourists or business travellers surfing the Internet with smart phones or laptops while in another country," Kroes said.
Neelie Kroes' policy is not popular with the industry
In 2009, a German was hit with an astronomical bill of over 46,000 euros after downloading a television show while roaming in France.
The roaming fee for sending a text message from a different EU country remains unchanged at 11 cents.
Several mobile phone companies unsuccessfully challenged the EU's roaming regulation in court, with Britain's Vodafone and Spain's Telefonica two of the largest firms to object.
The EU says roaming charges have now fallen by an average of 73 percent across the EU since 2005. The first European Commission cap on mobile phone roaming fees was introduced in 2007.
This commission wants the difference between national and EU-wide calling and internet surfing to "approach zero by 2015," and is scheduled to issue a report detailing its plans to achieve this target by June 2011.
Author: Mark Hallam (AFP/dpa/Reuters)
Editor: Rob Turner