EU cracks down on roaming mobile phone charges

23 July 2008 / by Rebecca Sargent
As millions of Brits prepare to go on holiday despite the credit crunch, experts are warning of excessive mobile phone charges that could hit Brits abroad.

Roaming charges for calls on mobile phones have already come under scrutiny by the European Commission with a cap being placed on them – as of August 30, outbound calls will be capped at €0.46 and receiving calls at €0.22 for the coming year. But, until now, roaming text message charges had gone relatively unscathed; however, they are next on the EU's hit list.

According to the European Commission, there are 2.5 billion text messages sent every year by roaming customers in the EU, and these cost more than 10 times the usual cost. In fact, the average text message charge between October 2007 and March 2008 was €0.29, but can be as high as €0.80 depending on the mobile phone providers.

Commenting on the charges, Viviane Reding, telecoms commissioner for the European Commission, said: "EU citizens should be free to text across borders without being ripped off.

"Roaming charges have already drained the wallets of mobile customers too much, especially the 77 per cent of young people who send texts while using their mobile abroad. It is not a good sign for the competitiveness of Europe's mobile industry that it still hasn't got the message that credible price reductions are needed to avoid regulation. I will therefore recommend to my fellow Commissioners that we propose a regulation of SMS roaming in October."

Rob Barnes, head of broadband and mobiles at moneysupermarket.com, advised UK holidaymakers to watch out for increased mobile costs abroad, saying: "Firstly, you should check with your operator before you head off on your holiday as to how much calls will cost, and if you can change to an international tariff while you are away.

"Calling or texting home from abroad can be expensive at the best of times, but think twice before downloading that episode of The Apprentice. Roaming charges can mean an unwelcome mobile bill on your return if you don't think carefully before using your phone abroad." he advised.

A price of between €0.11 and €0.15 per roaming text message has been recommended by the European Regulators' Group (ERG) which may well be enforced in October if the European Commission's intentions pan out.

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