Phoning from abroadCost of calls abroad set to fall

29 March 2006

A woman holding a phone

Mobile phone companies could be forced to cut their charges for making and receiving calls abroad, under EU plans.

Despite warning mobile operators repeatedly over high prices, the European Commission has found that 'roaming' charges for using phones abroad haven't been cut enough - and some have even increased.

The commision says that roaming charges vary from as little as about 13p for a Finnish consumer calling home for four minutes from Sweden, to about GBP 9 for a similar call made by a Maltese consumer in Latvia.

Law is next step

The EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding says she now has no choice but to use legislation to force down costs.

'It is high time that the EU's internal market delivered substantially lower communication charges for consumers and business people travelling abroad. I therefore propose that an EU regulation be used to eliminate all unjustified roaming charges. A mobile phone customer should not be charged a higher tariff just because he is travelling abroad.'

Which? has long highlighted the sky-high cost of making a call when you go abroad, as well as the difficulty in finding out what the charge will be beforehand.

Mobile firms say they've cut prices

Mobile phone operators insist they've already taken action to cut roaming prices - and Vodafone has already scrapped roaming charges for its Irish customers visiting Northern Ireland and Britain.

But roaming fees are estimated to account for as much as 15 per cent of mobile phone operators' income.

The new rules will be designed to eliminate all roaming charges for receiving a call when travelling abroad in the EU, and to ensure that customers making calls when abroad are charged only the price they'd pay if they were in their own country.

Final proposals are expected in June and will need approval from Euro MPs and EU telecom ministers.

To get the best deal when calling abroad, check out the European Commission's mobile roaming charges website.

It publishes roaming tariffs from operators in all 25 EU member states using tables of sample tariffs and direct links to EU mobile operators.