Cap on mobile tariffs within EU to benefit businesses and consumers

The costs of using a mobile phone when abroad have now become significantly cheaper, under new EU regulations.

The new rules, which came into force on 1 July 2012, impose a maximum charge for making telephone calls, sending SMS, and 'data roaming' - using mobile internet to download maps, videos, photos and email - in EU member states.

It will now cost a maximum of 29 cents (approx. 24p) per minute to make a mobile call, and 70 cents (approx. 58p) per megabyte to browse the internet, when travelling abroad.

The European Commission (EC) estimates that the new data roaming rules will cut consumer mobile bills by 75 per cent, saving the typical business person travelling in the EU around 1,000 euros (approx. £800) a year, and families around 200 euros (approx. £160).

It said the move, including the introduction of a warning text message when users near 50 euros worth of data downloads, would help avoid 'data bill shocks'. Consumers receiving the text alert would then have to confirm they are happy to continue using the service.

The changes are the first of EU plans to progressively reduce price caps and encourage greater competition between mobile phone networks. As of the 1 July 2014, consumers will be able to choose a separate roaming operator to their existing one - similar to using Wi-Fi - when travelling abroad.

According to the EC, around 5 billion euros will be spent on roaming services by people in Europe this year, around 15 billion less than compared to prices before the first EU roaming regulation came into effect in 2007.

The EC's vice president Neelie Kroes said: "Price caps on data mean we have roaming for the smart phone generation. This ends the roaming rip-offs once and for all in the EU. I am delighted that year after year the European Union is putting money back in the pockets of citizens."

Under the new rules, mobile users travelling in another EU country will pay - excluding VAT - no more than:

  • 29 euro cents (approx. 24p) a minute to make a call
  • 8 euro cents (approx. 7p) a minute to receive a call
  • 9 euro cents (approx. 8p) to send a text message
  • 70 euro cents per megabyte (approx. 58p) to download data or browse the internet.

Prices have been cut by around six times what they had been in 2007 when downloading data cost more the 4 euros a megabyte.