Good news for holidaymakers, mobile phone prices abroad are set to become cheaper under EU law. The changes will force phone companies to cap the amount they can charge for overseas calls and data roaming.
Until now, many travellers haven’t dared use their mobiles.
“I’m careful: only a few seconds and then I stop,” said one traveller at Brussels airport
“Normally, I just buy a SIM card when I go abroad and mainly use it to send texts, because that’s much cheaper,’‘ said another.
Last week the European Commission cut the maximum cost of an out-going mobile call from 39 euro cents per minute to 35 cents. Incoming call charges were also chopped from 15 to 11 cents. The new prices exclude individual countries’ VAT.
But Brussels wants to go further. It plans to allow travellers the option of switching operators when abroad while at the same time enabling them to keep their number.
Neelie Kroes, EU Commissioner for Digital Agenda, said: “If people do opt for a separate roaming contract, the phone will automatically switch to their pre-selected roaming provider when travelling – using the same phone number and without changing their SIM card every time.”
The new rules already in place mean slowly but surely roaming costs will fall. 35 euro cents this year dropping to 24 cents in three years time.
Consumer groups have cautiously welcomed the changes. Telecom specialist David Wiame from Test-Achats said.
“It’s a good thing, but one wonders if the goal of harmonising domestic and European prices will be reached. That’ll be very difficult and unfortunately we are pessimistic.”