The EU has set a cap of e0.11 (9p) per text message sent between European countries.
The new rule is a major coup in the EU’s bid to reduce the cost of sending text messages abroad.
The cap marks a huge boost for business travellers and tourists, who are often unaware of the charges when sending a text message back home. The European average for sending texts while roaming is currently e0.29 (24p) per text.
There will also be a cap for data roaming, at e1 (83p) per megabyte, and comes after customers have been stung with extortionately high bills when using emails or going online when overseas.
However, consumer groups felt there was less progress on curbing voice charges when roaming in Europe, criticising what was deemed a paltry price cap: e0.43 per minute (37p) for making a call, down just 2p from the previous 39p rate.
Receiving a call in Europe is now priced at e0.19 (16p), down 3p from 19p.
The EU said its objective was to kick-start competition between operators for overseas roaming.
Malcolm Harbour, MEP for East Midlands and member of the EU Committee, said: ‘The whole strategy behind the legislation was to kick off competition, and it is clearly now working.
‘We should not be in a position where we are intervening heavily because ?we don’t want to distort the market.’
Operators are already stepping up to the new rules. Vodafone is now offering bundled data packages for customers while abroad, adding to its recent decision to include overseas calls and texts in consumers’ standard bundles, and to abolish roaming charges during the summer period.
3 has also reduced its data roaming charges as it looks to outdo Vodafone, charging what it claims is the ‘lowest standard price of any UK network in Europe’ – at £1.25 per megabyte.
Meanwhile, T-Mobile raised the price for making overseas calls in Europe by 6p, to 44p per minute in June. It blamed the volatile currency market, and particularly the downturn in the value of the pound against the euro over the last year, for the decision.
Plans for handset tax canned
The EU has dropped controversial plans to introduce a tax on mobile phones that could have increased handset prices by up to 25%.
In December, Mobile exclusively revealed that the European Commission was in discussions over the proposal, which could have seen an import tax of up to 14% imposed on mobile phones with a built-in GPS receiver or TV function.
The proposal said many handsets should be classified as ‘multi-functional devices’, as they are ‘apparatus with multiple functions, including mobile telephony’.
However, Sweden, which holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said the large majority of countries voted for handsets to be treated as duty free in the Customs Code Committee’s meeting.