Nov 28, 2008

Business - EU Caps Prices on Roaming Texts, Data Downloads

BRUSSELS - European Union governments agreed on Thursday to cap prices of roamed mobile phone texts and data downloading from July 2009, EU president France said.

"We want to avoid so-called bill shock, when someone gets back from a holiday and gets a nasty surprise," said Luc Chatel, French minister for industry and consumer affairs.

The European Parliament has joint say with EU states on the measure and is expected to give its backing as well.

"It shows that Europe is first and foremost supposed to be there for its citizens," said Viviane Reding, the EU telecoms commissioner who proposed the legislation.

Ministers agreed to widen the scope of existing price caps on mobile phone calls made outside a home state in the 27-nation bloc to include roamed text messages and surfing the Web using a handset.

They agreed a retail price cap of 11 euro cents (14 U.S. cents) per roamed text compared with the current EU average of 29 cents, and there will be a wholesale price cap of 1 euro per megabyte on roamed data.

Ministers also supported Reding's proposal for billing of roamed voice calls per second from the 31st second to crack down on operators that charge by the minute only.

The bloc's telecoms ministers backed extending by three years to 2013 existing price caps on roamed voice calls.