The European Union has informally agreed on a new plan to cap mobile roaming rates for countries in the EU.
Under the new plan, European telcos will be given a series of ceilings for which roaming charges can be issued on mobile services.
Starting on 1 July 2009, if the plan is approved incoming calls will be capped at a rate of €0.43 per minute. That rate will drop to €0.39 in 2010 and €0.35 by 1 July 2011.
"I am pleased that today we have made an important step towards reaching an agreement that strikes a balance between the interests of all the stakeholders involved in the proposed roaming regulation," said Council of Ministers Parliament rapporteur Adina-Ioana Vălean.
"I am hopeful that all parties will endorse a concrete first-reading agreement so that European consumers can fully benefit from this new regulation by the beginning of summer."
The new law does not provide a minimum price for the charges, so service providers will be free to adjust rates under the cap as they see fit. The law requires providers to charge by the second, but an automatic 30-second minimum will be allowed.
Also covered by the law will be roaming charges on data transfers, which will be capped at €1 per megabyte this year and dropped to €0.50 by 2011.
The law also calls for a €50 'sticker shock' limit on data roaming charges, and requires carriers to warn customers if a mobile data limit is being reached.
The new plan comes as part of an ongoing effort by the EU to limit tariff charges for users while travelling abroad. Increased use of smartphones and broadband-capable handsets has put users at risk of increased roaming costs and led to several horror stories of customers unwittingly racking up massive phone bills while on holiday.
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