updated 01:15 pm EDT, Wed May 30, 2012
Lower roaming charges also include data roaming charge protection
The European Commission has agreed on a new set of mobile roaming rules in an effort to lower phone bills. The new regulations, effective from July, will lower the maximum roaming charges to €0.29 ($0.36) per minute for outgoing calls, or €0.08 ($0.10) per minute to receive calls. The changes are part of a continued battle between the European Union and phone networks over high roaming rates for the continent, with further reductions lined up in the future.
The restrictions are set to tighten in the future, with changes in two years time bringing per-minute prices down to €0.19 ($0.23) to place calls or €0.05 ($0.06) to receive calls.
Alongside the reductions in call prices, SMS and data will have similar changes beginning in July. Sending texts will cost €0.09 ($0.11), while one megabyte of data will cost €0.70 ($0.86). The further reductions that will be in place by 2014 will bring the prices down to €0.06 ($0.07) for texts and €0.20 ($0.25) per megabyte of data. Although the price changes affect European customers while in Europe, and do not cover further afield travel, protection will also be improved when leaving Europe; operators will have to send a warning when roaming charges for Internet use reach €50 ($62).
Another major change occurring in 2014 will enable customers will have the option of signing up for alternative roaming providers, be they other general phone networks or carriers that specialize in roaming. This is being seen as an attempt to lower prices further by generating competition between services, as opposed to relying solely on legislated reductions.
The rules will be published in the EU Official Journal of 30 June 2012, and will be in force for a 10 year period until 2022. The Commission will review the situation and report to the European Parliament by June 2016.