EU sanctions cheaper mobile-phone calls within Europe

A woman uses a smartphone
Image caption The changes will avoid the shock of receiving a huge bill after a trip, the EU said

Regulations to make using a mobile phone abroad significantly cheaper have been passed by the European Parliament.

The plans, which were voted in by a huge majority, include imposing a price cap on operators.

From July, using mobile data in Europe will not cost more than 70 cents (56p) per megabyte - far less than current rates.

Consumers will also be able to choose a different operator abroad from the one they use at home.

It is hoped this split-network approach - which comes into force in 2014 - will encourage greater competition.

The first changes will come into effect from 1 July. Calls will be capped at 29c (23p) per minute, plus VAT.

'Borderless Europe'

The EU said the regulations were designed to prevent "bill shock" - the moment when travellers discover they have have totted up huge bills after making calls and using data applications, such as maps, while away.

"In a borderless Europe, there is no place for charges that diverge so much at home and abroad," said MEP Ivo Belet.

The EU said the changes could mean savings for a "typical" businessman of more than 1,000 euros (£800) in a year.

The EU said that from 2014 customers would be able to choose their mobile networks upon arrival in a country, or signing up to a contract before leaving.

Currently, mobile users are forced to use their standard domestic operator when travelling abroad - or to use alternative arrangements, such as a cheap pre-paid SIM card.

Under the new regulations, customers can choose a different operator with a more attractive travel tariff before leaving - without changing their number.

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