New rules to prevent mobile phone users racking up huge bills when surfing the internet came into force today, coupled with cuts in overseas call charges.
It could mean huge savings for regular callers over the summer holidays and beyond, especially web users, following the introduction of new EU rules.
MoneySavingExpert.com has heard numerous horror stories of users racking up thousands of pounds worth of data roaming charges. In May, as a goodwill gesture, O2 agreed to refund one user who came home to find a £4,000 bill for what he described as basic internet use.
However, the cuts only apply when using your handset in the EU; and if making a call, only when calling someone in another EU state.
Data roaming cap
From today, a new monthly cap of roughly £49 will be applied on overseas mobile internet charges (known as data roaming charges) . This cap was already in place for those who opted in but it will now become standard.
The operating network must send customers a warning when they reach 80% of their data-roaming billing limit.
If the limit is reached, the operator must cut off the mobile internet connection unless the customer has declared in advance a wish to continue data roaming above their agreed limit in a particular month.
However, £49 is still a large amount so ensure you keep internet use to a minimum, use free-Wi-fi zones if your phone supports Wi-fi and turn off data roaming on iPhones and other smartphones as apps and email systems may use data when you are unaware.
Technically speaking, the cap is €50 (plus VAT), using the exchange rate published by the EU on 1 June. We have included VAT in our figures to give you the true cost going forward.
Call costs to fall
The maximum mobile networks can charge for calls made to an EU country whilst in another EU state has fallen today to roughly 38.2p per minute, down from around 43p (see the Mobile Roaming guide).
For receiving calls, the price cap will be roughly 14.7p per minute, down from around 19p per minute.
These new caps are based in euro cents (plus VAT), based on 1 June EU exchange rates. The figures you see in pence include VAT.
Receiving a voicemail message while in the EU has also today become free, but consumers will continue to be charged for listening to their messages.
This will put consumers back in charge of their costs as, until yesterday, you were charged when someone left a message, regardless of whether you listened to it. This will still happen outside the EU.
Compulsory maximum roaming rates were first imposed on mobile operators two years ago to tackle what EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding called the "roaming rip-off".
Mobile network operators were said to be making profits of more than 200% for calls made in another EU country, and 300% or 400% for calls received.
Labour MEP Arlene McCarthy, who steered the law through the European Parliament, says: "Mobile phone companies were given ample opportunity to act on the cost of using phones in another EU country.
"In the end it has taken EU action on every issue - calling, texting and now data roaming - to bring prices down.
"The message is clear: we will take on industry when there is clear evidence of over-charging and we will win a fairer deal for consumers."
Mobile roaming charges will be 73% cheaper on average than five years ago when the European Commission first began pressing operators to cut rates voluntarily.
The Commission says it will review roaming charges again next summer, when there may be further price cuts.
The ultimate aim, says a spokesman, is to reduce the difference in domestic and roaming tariffs to virtually zero by 2015.
Additional reporting by the Press Association.
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