updated 01:15 pm EDT, Wed September 24, 2008
EU to cap roaming charges
The European Commission on Tuesday announced a planned law that would limit how much network providers can charge for text messages and downloads when users are roaming outside of their home country in Europe, according to a WSJ report (registration required). Under the proposed law, a single text message sent within the European Union will cost the equivalent of 16 US cents, down from about 42. Charges for passing on text messages between mobile operators will be limited to just under 6 cents.
At the same time, one megabyte of data will cost a maximum of 1 euro, or $1.46, between providers. Additionally, cellphone users will be able to set maximum cost levels that, when reached, would cut off the data service and hence avoid shockingly high bills.
The changes are brought on by a slow adoption of data services in Europe, with smaller network providers blaming the law on the high charges. Some smaller providers feel the 1 euro per megabyte cap still isn't low enough to promote use of wireless data services, as it still represents a 100-fold increase of what customers pay in their home markets.
The proposal has been met with criticism from the major providers, with the representative GSM Association maintaining that data service prices were already falling by 13 percent per year and that the rule isn't necessary. Vodafone Group, meantime, is of the opinion that creating a fixed price for 27 different markets offers little incentive for competition.
As passing of the law needs to be voted on by the European Council and European Parliament, the earliest the law will come into effect is July of 2009.