updated 08:15 pm EST, Mon March 1, 2010
Customers can set their own cut-off limits
The European Commission has initiated part of its new roaming regulations for cellular providers based in countries of the EU. As of Monday, carriers are now required to introduce cut-off mechanisms designed to protect against "bill shock" when subscribers utilize data services while traveling throughout countries in Europe.
"Protection against data roaming bill shocks is a useful step towards building customers' confidence to use mobile networks to surf the Internet when travelling around Europe," said Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes. "Such confidence is essential if people and businesses are to use the Internet to its full potential."
Providers are required to offer their subscribers a monthly cut-off limit of €50, which will serve as the default after July 1st, although customers are also permitted to choose any other amount. A warning will be sent as the bill approaches 80 percent of the chosen limit.
The data cut-off limits are part of a wider range of regulations aimed at reducing many of the disproportionate fees charged to travelers. The Commission cites several extreme examples of massive roaming charges, including a German who was allegedly charged €46,000 after downloading a TV program while roaming in France. A student was reportedly hit with a €9,000 bill during a month spent studying abroad.
Along with the data restrictions, providers must also follow specific rules for voice calls. The EU last year dropped the minutely price caps for calls placed from outside a subscriber's home country, along with received calls. Receiving text messages is free, while sending a message will bring a maximum charge of €0.11.