A proposal for a European Union cap on roaming charges for text messages and data use on mobile phones has inched closer to reality after passing a key committee vote.
The European Parliament announced on Tuesday that its Industry Committee had approved the recommendations of the European Commission. The Commission wants to see consumers pay no more than 11 cents (10p), excluding VAT, per SMS when roaming in the EU outside their home country. The current average cost of a text message in those circumstances is 28 cents.
On data roaming, the committee went even further than the Commission, which called for a cap on wholesale, or inter-operator, charges of €1 per megabyte. The Industry Committee decided that 50 cents per megabyte would be better for the consumer.
The committee also agreed with the Commission that roaming voice calls — which have already been subject to capping by the Commission — should be charged by the second, to make billing more precise. It voted for this billing method to be applied from the first second of each call.
"Yesterday's vote in the European Parliament is very good news for consumers all over Europe," said the EU's telecoms commissioner, Viviane Reding, in a statement on Tuesday. "In view of the current economic downturn, the parliament is right in wanting to strengthen the purchasing power of European consumers as of this summer, which will encourage them to make even more use of their mobile phones."
The next step for the proposals will be a plenary vote in the European Parliament sometime between 21 and 24 April. If approved, the new rules will come into effect on 1 July.