EU assembly set to adopt new phone call price curbs

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The Independent Online

It will be up to 60 per cent cheaper to send mobile phone text messages while travelling in the European Union or surf the web by laptop under price curbs to be adopted by the bloc's assembly today.

Operators will be allowed to charge customers a maximum of 11 euro cents (10p) per roamed text (SMS) message, excluding sales tax, compared with current prices of about 28 cents.

Downloading data while roaming will cost a maximum of €1 per megabyte at the wholesale level compared with about €1.68 euros today.

The caps take effect in July and are being adopted at record speed as EU lawmakers, who face the ballot box a month earlier, are keen to show how the bloc can make a positive difference to the daily lives of its 495 million citizens.

The measure extends by three years to 2012 price caps introduced in 2007 on roamed voice calls, or when mobile phone users make or receive calls outside their home state in the EU.

The original measure had left out text messaging and data downloading, such as checking emails on a laptop or mobile phone while outside a home state.

EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding decided to propose a second measure to plug these gaps and to extend caps on roamed voice calls.

"Using your mobile phone abroad in the EU should not cost unjustifiably more than at home, whether for making calls, sending texts or surfing the web," Reding said in a statement.

"Europe's 37 million tourists and 110 million business travellers are waiting for the promise of the borderless single market to finally have a positive impact on their phone bills," Reding said.

The European Parliament and EU states have the final say and reached an informal deal last month that parliament is set to adopt into law today.

EU regulators and the European Commission want to end "bill shock", when business travellers or holidaymakers return home to huge charges for checking emails or surfing the web while away.

The GSM Association, which represents major mobile operators, has said the latest measures were unnecessary and that data prices were already falling.