Money News: No longer done roaming: overseas call costs to plummet

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The Independent Online

The cost of using your mobile abroad is to drop by more than two-thirds but consumers will still have to pay to pick up calls, the European Commission ruled last week.

The new proposed regulation, largely the work of Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner for Information, Society and Media, aims to ensure that prices paid by consumers for roaming services within the European Union "are not unjustifiably higher than those ... within their own country".

Today, the cost of ringing home from abroad is around four times that of a domestic call.

The Commission will cap both wholesale prices - those charged between rival mobile network providers for transferring consumers' calls - and prices paid by the user.

In the latter case, it will wait up to six months after the new regulation is enforced before imposing its price cap.

There will also be greater transparency on costs, Ms Reding said; mobile phone companies will have to give consumers regular updates about changes in roaming charges.

However, one proposal made earlier this year - to scrap the charge for picking up a call while abroad - has been dropped after heavy lobbying from the telecoms industry.

Many UK firms have already begun to cut roaming costs, in- cluding Vodafone, Orange and O 2.

Although the Commission said its proposals would "transform mobile roaming from being a nuisance for consumers into an attractive service", not everyone was impressed.

"This proposal is a disappointment to the consumer," said Robert Kenley of the price-comparison website "We would like to see all extra charges abolished for EU calls."

'Dormant' accounts: New homes for 'forgotten' £400m

At least £400m of forgotten savings and cash left by customers in "dormant" accounts should be reinvested in poor communities via a new "social investment" bank, a government-sponsored consultation has suggested.

The independent body would help fund small businesses, support credit unions and pay for free financial advice from trained staff. It could even invest in partnerships between local housing associations and commercial banks to create new, lower-cost mortgages and personal loans for those on small incomes.

And regardless of what happens to the cash, account holders must always be able to get it back, plus any interest due, when they discover their "lost" money.

The proposals were made last week in a paper published by the Commission on Unclaimed Assets. This looked at how best to use the hundreds, if not thousands, of millions of pounds that have been lying idle in accounts for at least a decade. Although the £400m reflects a recent government estimate of forgotten cash in banks and building societies, the figure is much higher if money in life insurance funds and products from National Savings and Investments (NS&I), including premium bonds, is taken into account.

Recent estimates from bodies such as the Unclaimed Assets Register - which, for a fee, will scour different financial institutions for money on your behalf - suggest some £15bn is unclaimed.

The consultation will run until the end of this year. It will examine questions such as what period constitutes "dormant", and is expected to produce a final report before next year's Budget.

To check if you have "lost" assets, ring the British Bankers' Association Dormant Account Unit on 020 7216 8909, or the Building Societies Association on 020 7437 0655. NS&I can be contacted on 0845 964 5000.

Graduate jobs: Out of university and on to £23,000

The number of graduate trainee jobs on offer is up by nearly 17 per cent on last year - the highest rise for more than a decade, according to new research from the Association of Graduate Recruiters.

Companies received an average of 28 applicants for each job, the survey found, while graduates could expect an average salary of £23,136 - up by 2.9 per cent.

The highest-paying employers were fund managers or investment banks. These offered new recruits an average salary of £36,000.

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