EU travellers get cheaper mobile phone bills for roaming abroad

Nassos Stylianou
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The cost of using a mobile device to go online abroad in the EU has been halved today, a timely boost for those visiting European destinations this summer.

In changes to regulations that came into effect on 1 July, the maximum price for data roaming, downloading data while in another European Union country, has been slashed by 55 per cent from last year.

Mobile data usage is now capped at 16p per MB, down from 36p. Holidaymakers and business travellers to the continent will also get cheaper phone calls and text messages as part of the alterations.

Outgoing voice calls have dropped more than 20 per cent to 15p per minute, while sending a text message is just below 5p, down by a quarter from the 2013 price.

1 July 20121 July 20131 July 2014
Outgoing voice calls (per minute)€0.29€0.24€0.19
Incoming voice calls (per minute)€0.08€0.07€0.05
Outgoing texts (per SMS)€0.09€0.08€0.06
Online (data download, per Megabyte)€0.70€0.45€0.20

Roaming charges, which are a premium that mobile operators impose on customers when they use their smartphone or smart device in other European Union countries, have been one of the biggest consumer complaints against the telecoms industry in recent years.

The European Union first started capping prices in 2008 and the retail costs of SMS and calls are down by more than 80 percent since then. However, as consumers return home from a trip abroad to a nasty surprise when they receive their phone bill, they are still very conscious of how they use their phones abroad.

The changes are part of a drive by the EU, and specifically under telecoms commissioner Neelie Kroes, to eliminate roaming prices.

"This huge drop in data roaming prices will make a big difference to all of us this summer. But it is not enough. Why should we have roaming charges at all in a single market? By the end of this year I hope we see the complete end of roaming charges agreed," Kroes said.

A survey published in March found that such is the prohibitive cost of using a mobile abroad that more than one in four Europeans admit to switching their phones off for the duration of a trip elsewhere in the EU.

The report suggested that telecoms companies were missing out on a market of around 300m phone users because of their pricing strategies.

The industry has expressed concern at the EU's price capping tactics, saying that unless lower roaming charges are supported by lower wholesale prices operators would be forced to charge consumers more at home to cover the gap.

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