EU gets tough on high text charges

A crackdown on high mobile phone texting charges has been launched by the European Commission after voluntary reductions were found not to have worked.

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The move follows the success of laws introduced last year to cap mobile call roaming charges, which have seen falls of an average of 60%.

Since last summer, the highest permitted roaming charges have been 49 euro cents (34p) a minute for calls while travelling within the EU, and 24 cents (16.6p) a minute for receiving calls while abroad.

However, the price caps generated increased competition and meant that the actual prices charged by UK mobile operators were an average of 31.57 cents (21.9p) for outgoing calls and 12.63 cents (8.7p) for incoming ones.

Phone companies were warned last January to cut texting charges voluntarily or face EU rules forcing them to do so. Now, EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding has proposed dramatic moves to slash texting rates by as much as 60% to a maximum of 11 cents (just under 9p). She also wants to see the cost of receiving data on a mobile phone while abroad reduced.

The current price legislation on roaming charges expires on June 30 2010, by which time it is hoped all mobile operators will be in healthy competition at rates below the permitted highest charges.

Rob Barnes, head of mobiles and broadband at moneysupermarket.com, said: "At last we're seeing a significant price cap put on the inflated charges imposed by mobile networks for texts and data. The ceiling on call charges has saved consumers millions of pounds and these new regulations will help people save even more at a time when they need it most. Using a mobile abroad can result in massive monthly bills and a mobile phone is something most people can't do without.

"As call charges have been so high in the past, travellers have got into the habit of texting instead. However, sending and receiving a couple of texts on your holiday soon starts adding pounds to your bill. Consumers who are going abroad should look at their network's international offering as these can often provide huge savings.

"Whilst the Commission's announcement is great news for anyone taking their phone abroad, the regulation could still go further. 3 currently allow its customers to use their bundled allowance whilst in one of the network's partnering countries such as Italy. With all the major networks operating in other countries across Europe, I don't see why they can't follow suit, except of course they won't make as much money. In my opinion further regulation is still needed in this area."

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