The European Union parliament, under the Impulse of Telecoms Commissioner, Viviane Reading, has approved plans to set lower charges for SMS and data across Europe starting from July 2009.
MEP voted, by an overwhelming majority (646 against 22), for the new EU rules which were proposed by the European Commission back in September 2008 and were strongly opposed by the mobile phone industry.
This means that mobile phone users travelling to Mainland Europe will only have to pay €0.11 to send a text message compared to €0.28.
The vote means that mobile phone networks will need to slash the cost of a mobile phone call made abroad by 24 percent to €0.35 per minute by 2011, while charges for calls received abroad will be halved to €0.11.
Another contentious paragraph of the law will force the operators to bill roaming calls by the second from half minute onwards which, according to EU research, could save users nearly a quarter of their bills.
Overall, European consumers can expect bills generated by calls and text sent abroad in Europe to decrease by up to 60 percent.
In addition, there will also be a significant reduction in data roaming charges with a wholesale cap of €1 per megabyte downloaded (but no details about uploads), which is set to fall by half by 2011.
Finally, mobile operators will be forced to introduce a cut-off mechanism that will allow the consumers to choose whether to continue paying the bill or not, once the amount spent reaches €50.
Commissioner Reding commented on the vote and said that "The development of the roaming market will be kept under close EU scrutiny over the next three years. I very much hope that the mobile industry will understand this message."
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The danger here is that the mobile phone networks will start to charge their customers somewhere else to recoup their lost profits. This could include increasing the cost of contracts or charging for receiving calls. But in this recession, it might not be a wise move for any of them.
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