Mobile roaming costs capped across Europe

European mobile phone users will be entitled to cheaper roaming phone calls by the summer holidays this year after the European Parliament voted through a new law curbing roaming costs.

From some time in June, operators can charge users no more than €0.49 for calls made abroad within Europe and €0.24 cents for calls received. The Parliament's Industry Committee had wanted caps of €0.40 and €0.15, while the European Council wanted caps of €0.60 and €0.30.

The costs will decrease each year, by three cents for two years for outgoing calls and by two cents next year then three cents the following year for incoming calls.

The rates must be offered to all customers and must be actively and clearly promoted by all operators, according to the compromise agreement between Parliament and Council voted on today.

One major dispute between Parliament and Council was whether or not the tariffs should apply automatically or should have to be applied for. Customers will be able to opt in to the tariff immediately and must be put on the tariffs within a month. Any customers who do not make a decision either way will be placed on the tariffs automatically after three months.

The German Presidency has said that it will attempt to have the Regulations in force by 29th June, but EU Commissioner for the Information Society Vivianne Reding has said that that is not early enough.

The Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the move but said that there was a danger that mobile phone companies would seek to recoup costs by increasing charges overall.

"This is great news for small businesses like mine that operate across EU member states and find charges for making and receiving calls hugely expensive," said Tina Sommer, FSB EU Affairs Chairman. "Euro MPs today voted to break down another barrier to the single market but they must remain vigilant to prevent increased domestic call costs from mobile providers."