EU bans mobile roaming charges

The EU has voted to ban roaming charges for mobile phones, starting next year.

Consumers will be able to use their smartphones and tablets across Europe for the same price they do at home. This move will further improve on planned rate caps that are due to come into force in July 2013.

Acording to price comparison website uSwitch Uk holidaymakers on average spend an extra £120 on their mobile phone on each trip abroad.

From July 1 this year 1MB of data – equivalent to browsing five web pages or downloading 40 emails – will be capped at €0.45 (38p). Calls made by British travellers in the EU will cost a maximum of €0.24 (20p) a minute, or €0.07 (6p) a minute to receive one. Text messages are €0.08 (7p) each.

No one can be charged more than €50 (£43) in one billing period, over their normal monthly contract.

While these charges were expected to fall further in 2014, the EU now plans to ban them altogether.

In a bid to consolidate mobile carriers across the EU and therefore increase large-scale infrastructure commissioners are fast-tracking telecom regulation reforms in time for July 2014.

uSwitch estimates that a British person who travels abroad for 15 days a year, checks a few emails every day, and uses the internet for half an hour would still pay around £75. Scrapping these charges would therefore benefit travellers.

Neelie Kroes, the EU digital commissioner, said: ‘I have said from day one in this job that roaming charges should go. I want to show the EU is useful to people’s lives.”

A spokesman for the EU said: ‘Roaming charges is the one thing everyone agrees on. Members of the European Parliament will want to get the ban agreed sooner rather than later so they can go to the elections in May next year and say ‘look what we did’.”

Ernest Doku, from uSwitch, said: “Around one in seven Brits arrive home from holiday to a massive phone bill due to the charges they have racked up on foreign turf.

“Scrapping all roaming charges in EU countries is a real win for consumers. Not only will we be better protected from the shock of these steep bills, but the doors will be open to foreign networks looking for a piece of the market in Britain, which could mean cheaper mobile deals too.”

UK consumers group Which? is also delighted, but adds a word of warning. Richard Lloyd, Which? executive director said: “This would put an end to uncertainty about using mobiles abroad and cut bill shocks off at source.

“Plans to increase competition and choice in this market could also lower mobile bills and improve services for consumers, However, the Commission must ensure that the industry plays fair and doesn't hike other charges to compensate.”