The cost of making mobile phone calls when travelling abroad is set to fall after Euro-MPs overwhelmingly voted to slash charges.
Cuts of up to 75 per cent in ‘roaming’ rates are due in time for the summer holidays.
The new charges are likely to become a reality in mid-August for phone users who switch to the new ‘euro-tariffs’.
Depending on the exchange rate, these tariffs set a maximum of under 35p per minute for making calls on a mobile from abroad.
And for receiving calls on a mobile while travelling in other EU countries the maximum cost will be under 19p.
The agreement includes reducing capped rates even further over the next three years, by about 2p a year for making calls and 1.5p a year for receiving calls.
Where existing mobile deals are below the euro-tariffs, users can opt to stay on their present tariff agreements.
Which? Senior Researcher Ceri Stanaway said: ‘At last this cap on charges will cut the cost of calls in Europe – roaming charges have been unjustifiably high for far too long. We’ll be keeping an eye on UK call costs though, to make sure the reduction in roaming charges isn’t passed on by raising tariffs here. As the decision only affects EU member states, it’ll be interesting to see whether roaming charges now start to come down worldwide.
‘The new, cheaper euro-tariff will apply by default unless the customer specifically chooses to opt out, but it’s early days yet so we’d still encourage people to check their package with their provider before they go abroad this summer, especially if they’re already on a roaming tariff.’
Some roaming tariffs can already be as low as just 3.5p a minute – but more often rates are much higher and in some cases there is a mark-up of up to 400 per cent compared with domestic calls.
Mobile phone operator 3 Mobile welcomed the cap on roaming charges, saying it had already abolished roaming charges in countries where it has a sister network – resulting in a doubling of calls made to the UK and an increase in the length of calls of about 40 per cent.
‘This demonstrates the positive impact capping roaming charges in time for this summer could have,’ said a 3 Mobile statement.
Vodafone said its customers had already seen the average cost of roaming calls fall by more than 40 per cent compared with summer 2005.
Arun Sarin, chief executive of Vodafone said: ‘Vodafone has led the market by offering better value and choice to our roaming customers. As a result, they pay 40 per cent less on average today and around 12 million have been able to choose our Passport tariff, which already offers a better deal than the Euro-tariff proposed in the regulation.’
Latest European Commission examples of the potential benefits for UK mobile owners using their phones abroad suggest savings under the new deal of 60 per cent compared with current charges for making mobile calls home on a UK-based mobile from France, Italy, Spain and Portugal.
A four-minute call now typically costs about £3.80, which will fall to about £1.53 – a saving of more than £2.
The cost of receiving a call on a UK mobile while in those same countries could fall by 75 per cent: current charges for four minutes of just under £3 will drop to about 75 pence, again saving well over £2.