Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

E.U. to Extend Cap on Roaming Charges

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

E.U. to Extend Cap on Roaming Charges

Article excerpt

The move, which includes caps on roaming fees for data downloads, ensures that the charges for calling and surfing the Net abroad will decline in each of the next three years.

European lawmakers on Thursday approved a plan to extend and lower the Continent's limits on mobile phone roaming charges paid by consumers for another five years, and added the first controls on mobile Internet use.

In addition to the caps, the legislation adopted by the European Parliament will allow E.U. residents to buy roaming services from a carrier besides their regular operator beginning in 2014, an attempt to create competition in the market that will lower prices and supplant the need for price controls.

The Parliament voted 578 to 10, with 10 abstentions, for the politically popular measure. The European Council of Ministers, which acts as the legislative upper house, has already agreed to adopt the same proposal at its next meeting in June.

The new lower price caps will take effect on July 1. Neelie Kroes, the European commissioner for telecommunications, said the reductions in retail price caps, especially the limit on data roaming, could save some European families EUR 300, or $390, during a one-week summer vacation outside their home countries.

Business travelers in Europe will save on average about EUR 1,000 a year in roaming charges, Mrs. Kroes said.

Europe's retail price controls on mobile phone roaming charges, which consumers pay when making or receiving calls, texting and surfing the Internet outside their home countries, were introduced in July 2007 and have been lowered each year since.

Support for the limits remains strong. A European Commission survey found that 74 percent of E.U. residents still turn off their smartphones while traveling to avoid the charges.

Monique Goyens, the director general of the European Consumers' Organization, said the new retail caps on data roaming were welcome, but not low enough to encourage widespread use. …

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