LONDON -- From this summer, holidaymakers and business travellers will begin to see significant savings if they use maps, emails, social networks and other data downloads abroad. From 1 July 2012 the European Union's mobile roaming regulation will be extended to include price caps for data downloads resulting in the cost of downloading data or browsing the internet being capped at 70 cents per megabyte, plus VAT. This is six times lower than 2009 prices.
"Bill shocks" should become a thing of the past for anyone travelling outside the EU. Also from 1 July this year consumers will get a warning text message, email or pop-up window when they are nearing 50 euro of data downloads, or their pre-agreed level. They will then have to confirm they are happy to go above this level to continue data roaming. Currently this alert system is only operational within the EU.
From 1 July 2014 customers will have the option to shop around for a separate mobile roaming provider, either through a contract or by choosing a provider at their destination - like they would choose a wifi network - whilst keeping the same number.
Commission Vice President Neelie Kroes said: "By putting price caps on data we have created a roaming market for the smart phone generation. More than that, we have ended the rip-offs familiar to anyone who has used a mobile phone while travelling abroad. I am pleased that year after year the European Union is putting money back in the pockets of citizens."
"From 2014 we are also delivering a permanent solution to the roaming issue, something better than any price cap. We are bringing full competition to this market by making it easy to choose a separate roaming provider. If you can find a better offer compared to your standard contract you'll be able to do it in a few simple swipes, just like when you choose a wifi network."
Since 2007 the EU has placed price caps on calling and texting. Now data is being brought under the same system.
The new prices caps which enter into force on 1 July 2012 are:
29 cents per minute to make a call, plus VAT
8 cents per minute to receive a call, plus VAT
9 cents to send a text message, plus VAT
70 cents per megabyte (MB) to download data or browse the Internet whilst travelling abroad (charged per Kilobyte used), plus VAT.
Downloading data previously cost more than 4 euro per megabyte from many operators in July 2009 â€“ those prices will be cut by around six times.
By 2014, as prices are cut further, the maximum cost of downloading data will be just 20 cents per megabyte, plus VAT, a saving of 90% on many current rates.