updated 04:00 pm EDT, Wed July 1, 2009
EU caps now in effect
The previously promised cap on roaming rates for phone calls made from cellular devices went into effect today. The European Commission-mandated cap applies to calls made throughout the 27-country union, and is estimated to save consumers as much as 60 percent in cellular phone bills. The new limits will drop the price of making a call in a country other than one's home to the equivalent of 61 cents per minute, excluding sales tax, from 65 cents. Receiving calls will fall from 31 cents to 27 cents.
"In a Europe, where you can travel without borders, it is essential that you can also use your mobile phone without borders," said the director general of the BEUC European consumers association, Monique Goyens.
The new law will also require operators to bill customers by the seconds after the first 30 seconds so they do not get calls rounded up to the nearest minute. Similar caps will be applied to text messages and data use. As an average across EU nations, sending a text message will cost a maximum of 11 cents without sales tax, whereas it cost 28 cents earlier. Each megabyte of data a carrier will be able to charge each other will also be capped at a maximum of the equivalent of $1.41. While this is not guaranteed to lower the price customers pay, the EU Telecoms Commissioner is calling on operators to pass on their savings to their subscribers.
The data roaming charges will be monitored, and if the operators fail to pass on their savings, European authorities may also consider capping retail data roaming rates as well, according to Goyens.