Mobile-roaming boost in time for summer holidays

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A cheap summer for mobile phone users lies ahead thank to new rules voted through by the  European Parliament in time for the summer getaway.

MEPs sitting in Brussels voted through a package of measures to tackle the high cost of using mobile devices abroad in Europe. Once ratified by the European Council the package will take force on July 1.

Conservative MEPs backed the measures and welcomed the better deal for consumers. It will allow them to sign up for a second, alternative provider for their roaming services elsewhere within the EU (under the same number) if their domestic provider is charging too much.

New retail price ceilings were also approved. They will be reduced initially to €0.29 per minute for outgoing calls, €0.08 for incoming. Text messages will be capped at €0.09, and data roaming costs limited to €0.70 per megabyte. By 2014 these costs will be further reduced to €0.19 per minute to make a call and €0.05 to receive. Text messages will be pegged at €0.06 and data downloads at €0.20 per megabyte.

Giles Chichester MEP, Conservative MEP for South West England and the party’s parliamentary negotiator on the legislation, said: “This is a piece of EU legislation which is of practical assistance to consumers and, in particular, to once-a-year holidaymakers abroad. What is more it will help small business seeking to expand sales abroad.

“By putting a cap on the amount mobile operators can charge for roaming data we will be saving many people from a nasty surprise that can spoil the end of their holidays. Too often people come home to an unwelcome “Bill Shock” from their monthly mobile invoice.

“We would have preferred not to legislate and to let the mobile companies trim rates voluntarily – but the operators failed to budge.

In the plenary debate on the legislation Vicky Ford MEP, Conservative industry spokesman, said: “Excessive charging for roaming causes consumers and operators to lose out. Many consumers who have faced high charges just switch off their data roaming and don’t access services at all.”