The cost of using mobile phones, smartphones and tablets when travelling abroad within the EU will fall sharply from 1 July this year, under an agreement with the Council endorsed by Parliament on Thursday. The new rules will also enable clients to buy roaming services from suppliers other than their home service suppliers and open up the market to new entrants, so as to boost competition and thus reduce prices.
The proposal entered into force on 1 July 2012, replacing the 2007 regulation, which expireed on 30 June 2012.
Using mobile devices abroad remains expensive. During the summer holidays, our citizens will be able to take advantage of more favourable tariffs. Parliament has succeeded in its call for cheaper roaming prices for consumers, and in particular for data roaming. In addition, from July 2014, consumers will be able to choose an operator other than their national operator for roaming services. The new rules will also help to open up the market to new entrants and so increase competition.
The agreement was adopted by 578 votes to 10 with 10 abstentions.
Under pressure from MEPs, the cost of using data services will be capped at 70 Euro cents per megabyte from 1 July 2012 and will then fall in stages to 45 cents in 2013 and 20 cents on 1 July 2014. There is currently no limit to the prices operators can charge for mobile data services to retail consumers.
New retail caps on voice calls will reduce the cost of a one-minute call to 29 cents from 1 July 2012 and 19 cents from July 2014, down from the current maximum of 35 cents. Text messages will also be cheaper, falling from the current maximum price of 11 cents to 9 cents on 1 July this year and 6 cents on 1 July 2014.
Preventing "bill shocks"
Alerts in the EU to prevent "bill shocks" will be extended to also cover people travelling outside the Union. As from 1 July 2012, people will get a warning message when they approach 50 Euros of charges in a month (excluding VAT), if the foreign network is compatible.
Boosting competition on the roaming market
The new deal also proposes for the first time measures to boost competition.
From 1 July 2014, customers will be able to buy their domestic and roaming services separately, from different operators, if they so wish, whilst keeping the same phone number. They will not be charged for switching providers and their home country provider will be obliged to inform them of this right.
Furthermore, as from 1 July 2012, virtual mobile network operators (MVNOs), i.e. those who do not have their own networks, will have the right to access other operator's networks at wholesale prices in order to provide roaming services. This will encourage more operators to compete on the roaming market.
The new rules will be adopted by the Council of Ministers in June and apply with direct effect in all EU Member States from 1 July 2012. The European Commission must review the functioning of these rules by 30 June 2016.