EU vows end to "bill shock" with roaming charge cap ruling

Measures that could put an end to “bill shock” have been voted in by the EU, with caps on mobile and data costs alongside greater freedom to change operators when travelling abroad.

Currently smartphone and tablet users are liable to receive bills after returning from holiday which they are often paying off long after their tan fades.  

Business user too are often left with hefty charges for using data roaming and making calls abroad, with no caps currently in place on the amount operators can charge.

However, as of 1 July 2012 the cost of using data services will now be capped at 70 Euro cents (56p) per megabyte.  This will then fall to 45 (36p) cents in 2013, and 20 cents (16p) the following year.

Mobile call rates will also be capped at 29 cents (23p) per minute from 1 July, with further reductions over the next two years. Text messages will see the cap lowered to six cents after the EU council overwhelmingly voted in favour of changes to current pricings and put an end to “bill shock”.

Furthermore, from 2014, customers will be able to switch to a different operator from their domestic provider once they leave the shores of Blighty, without the hassle of a new phone number.

This is all good news for customers, and the European Commission highlighted some of the savings that could be made under the new rules.

With reasonably moderate usage a family of four could expect a €226 (£185) saving or more over a week.  A businessperson on the other hand could save over a thousand Euors (£800) with moderate use over a year.   Whether moneybags operators such as Vodafone will take the same view is another matter, of course.

While the EU is making great strides to support the boom in use of mobile devices, travelling in other parts of the world could still leave you in cold sweats when the bill arrives. According to international SIM card provider GOSIM, venturing further afield is still prohibitively pricey.

“Today’s vote in the European Parliament should act as a wake-up call to the rest of the industry – and the world – that roaming charges are currently too high and that subscribers have a right to be protected from bill shock,” GOSIM’s John Assiter said in a statement.

“But while this legislation is great news, there’s still some way to go.  These rules will only apply to EU citizens roaming within Europe, so if you’re travelling further afield you could still be stung with inflated roaming charges.”