EU promises lower roaming charges

Posted by Emma Woollacott

European regulators have struck a deal which should see the cost of using a cellphone abroad drop dramatically.

From July 1 - just in time for vacations - consumers should pay no more than 29 cents per minute to make a call and 70 cents per megabyte for data downloads, wherever they are in Europe.

"The proposed price caps ensure a sufficient margin between wholesale and retail prices to assure a level of competition that will enable new players to enter the market," says Angelika Niebler, the European Parliament's rapporteur for the draft legislation. 

"This agreement increase transparency and consumer protection to prevent bill shocks, so that EU consumers no longer need to worry about accidentally running up huge bills when using their mobile devices both within and outside the EU."

In the past, consumers have faced massive bills when moving from one EU country to another - particularly when downloading data. While the new rules don't cut the cost of calls all that much, it's the first time a cap has been imposed on data, and most current prices are considerably above the new cap.

And, under the new rules, prices are set to fall further: by July 2014, says the EU, calls must come in at under 19 cents per minute and data at 20 cents a megabyte.

Also new are measures designed to make it possible for customers to shop around for international coverage, buying a separate, temporary contract for their phone when traveling abroad.