An EU ruling on mobile roaming charges has got the go-ahead

The mobile networks failed to overturn an EU ruling in court yesterday, forcing them to place a cap on the roaming fees they charge to users calling from overseas.

From July 1st, mobile networks are must cap call charges at 32p per minute for making a call and 12.5p per minute for receiving calls while travelling abroad.

Further reductions to roaming rates are scheduled for 2011.

Networks will be forced to inform of charges upon a mobile user’s entry to another EU country by text, and automatically cut off their customers after they accrue €50 (£42) of roaming fees, unless travellers explicitly state otherwise.

The measure is hoped to avoid the “bill shock” by customers who return from overseas holidays to massive unforeseen mobile phone charges.

The European Union Court of Justice yesterday backed moves to cut mobile roaming rates by up to 70%, citing the necessity for the EU to impose these limits to protect consumers and tourists alike from the high charges associated with overseas calls.

The law had initially been proposed by the European Commission in 2007, with Telecoms Commission Viviane Reding calling attention to the “roaming rip-off” she claimed users were being subjected to, but the major mobile networks – including Vodafone, 02, T-Mobile and Orange – were quick to attempt to have the ruling overturned.

This claim was rejected as the judges in Luxembourg ruled the Commission was right to get involved, “…even if it might have negative economic consequences for certain operators.

A spokesman for network Three said:

“We are delighted that the European Court of Justice has ruled that the price cap on EU roaming charges should stay in place.

“The decision to put the cap in place came after Three and a range of consumer groups lobbied the European Commission to bring an end to excessive roaming pricing in Europe and allow true competition.

“The court’s ruling not only reinforces the Commission’s original decision, but ensures consumers can continue to enjoy cheaper calls when abroad – something that has already saved people many millions of pounds.”

It should be noted however, that whilst the throttle has been placed on voice calls, there are no such caps currently in place for data roaming charges.

Networks can still charge steeply for downloading content and browsing the web, so be sure to know the true cost per megabyte before you travel.