European telecoms operators will soon have stricter limits on the amount they can charge their customers for using mobile services while abroad. MEPs and EU government representatives have finished negotiating a set of new laws governing mobile roaming costs. Following a final rubber-stamp in April, prices will begin to drop across the board from the start of July. Further price cuts are planned, coming in over the next two years.
What are the changes being introduced?
Mobile voice costs:
Starting July 1st, the maximum charge for making calls will be €0.43 per minute (excluding VAT), and €0.19 per minute for receiving calls. In 2010 these prices will be dropped to €0.39 and €0.15. In 2011 they will drop once more, to €0.35 and €0.1
Operators will also no longer be allowed to charge consumers by the minute. This is to combat unfair billing practices, where customers were being charged for time they didn’t use. Operators must now start charging by the second, with an initial charging period of 30 seconds.
SMS and data:
Sending a basic SMS from another country will be limited to €0.11 per message, down from an EU average of €0.29 last year.
MMS, mobile Internet browsing and email will be regulated at a wholesale level, instead of at the retail end. The price cap will apply to the rates a host operator can charge the roaming customer’s home operator. The maximum €1 per megabyte of data downloaded, from July 1st. Like voice charges, this will drop over the next two years – to €0.80 in 2010 and €0.50 in 2011.
In order to make pricing more predictable, roaming customers must be offered a the ability to place a maximum limit of €50 on their bills from March 1, 2010. The operators will be obliged warn consumers when they reach 80% that limit. Once the limit is reached, the operator must cease all roaming services, but can send a notification asking the consumer if they want to continue roaming.
From the story:
Adina-Ioana Valean, a Romanian member of the European Parliament involved in the negotiations, said “I am pleased that today we have made an important step towards reaching an agreement that strikes a balance between the interests of all the stakeholders involved in the proposed roaming regulation. I am hopeful that all parties will endorse a concrete first-reading agreement so that European consumers can fully benefit from this new regulation by the beginning of this summer”
What we think?
When I arrived in Vienna on Sunday (here to cover the Mobile Internet Conference), I got a text from my operator informing me that making calls would cost me 56c per minute, and receiving them would cost 27c per minute. Those prices are ridiculous. And it seems to be on people’s mind. We’ve had the horror story of the 12,000 dollar mobile bill from Australia earlier this week, which co-incided with a call on the Australian government to do exactly what the EU has just done: intervene with the operators on the behalf of it’s citizens.
I was wondering what in particular had spurred all the MNO’s to start saving money like crazy by signing sharing deals and handing over maintenance services. It wasn’t just the economy: they knew this was on the way.