From 1 July 2012, using mobile internet to access maps, videos, photos, social networks and email will be much cheaper while travelling in other EU member states.
A new EU regulation means that, for the first time, there will be a maximum charge for "data roaming" - downloading data from the internet when using a mobile connection. The data roaming rules will mean savings of over €1000 per year for a typical businessperson travelling in the EU. A family taking an annual holiday in another EU country can expect to save at least €200. (Full details of these data roaming case studies are in Annex II). The new rules will also cut the maximum prices for voice calls and texts.
Overall, the improved EU roaming regulation - taking into account calls, text messages and data - will deliver consumers savings of 75% across a range of mobile roaming services, compared to 2007 prices. This year, Europeans will spend around €5 billion on roaming services, a saving of around €15 billion compared to prices before the first EU roaming regulation became law in 2007.
Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: "Price caps on data mean we have roaming for the smart phone generation. This ends the roaming rip-offs once and for all in the EU. I am delighted that year after year the European Union is putting money back in the pockets of citizens."
The new maximum prices mobile users will face as of 1st July 2012 are:
29 cents per minute to make a call, plus VAT
8 cents per minute to receive a call, plus VAT
9 cents to send a text message, plus VAT
70 cents per Megabyte (MB) to download data or browse the Internet whilst travelling abroad (charged per Kilobyte used), plus VAT.
In July 2009 downloading data cost more than €4 per Megabyte from many operators - now those prices will be cut by around six times. By 2014, as prices are cut further, the maximum cost of downloading data will be just 20 cents per Megabyte, plus VAT, a saving of 90% on many current rates.
Operators are free to offer cheaper rates. Price caps are a maximum level, acting as a safeguard, and competition should drive them lower.
Also, as of 1 July 2012, to help avoid "data bill shocks", people travelling outside the EU will get a warning text message, email or pop-up window when they are nearing €50 of data downloads, or their pre-agreed level. Consumers will then have to confirm they are happy to go over this level in order to continue their data roaming. This extends the alert system currently in place within the EU.
The measures coming into effect on 1 July are the first in a series of progressively reducing price caps, eventually leading to a new system that will introduce choice, competition and new great roaming deals into the market by allowing consumers to choose a separate roaming contract before they travel or a provider at their destination, similar to the way they choose a Wi-Fi network. This option will be possible as of 1 July 2014.
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