Cheaper calls in Europe

EU wins phone charges cap

Over 22 million holidaymakers will benefit from a cap on mobile phone charges in the EU after the European High Court ruled they were legal.

The ruling came after the big four UK phone providers tried to have the European Union roaming regulations overturned.

First outlined in 2007, the regulations put a maximum limit on charges for calls and other mobile services, amounting to a 70% saving for consumers abroad, according to comparison site uSwitch.

The limit will initially be set at 49 euro cents for making a call and 24 cents for receiving a call. These charges are to be reduced to 35 cents and 11 cents respectively by 2011.

Matthew Wheeler, communications expert at says: “This is fantastic news for anyone about to jet off this summer – eight out of 10 consumers currently think they are charged too much for using their phone while on holiday.”

When the legislation comes into force on 1 July 2010, it will extend to customers from all of the 27 EU member states when they are outside their home network. It will also cover them when they are travelling in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

The price limits restrict what companies can charge their own customers (the retail price) as well as what they can charge each other when hosting calls from customers of rival networks (the wholesale price).

In contending the regulations, the phone giants argued that allowing the EU to set the retail price cap was a step too far.

But the court ruled that the regulations were appropriate to protect consumers from extortionate charges. Prior to the caps being approved, retail charges were as much as five times the wholesale price and in some countries, a call could cost €2.50 per minute.

Price limits are also due to be put in place for sending and receiving other data such as texts and images via mobile phones. 

But Wheeler cautions: “Wherever you are going it’s still well worth contacting your network before you travel to ensure that you fully understand the cost of using your phone while you are away and switch off your voicemail and roaming options unless you really need to use them.”