The cost of texting while roaming in the EU will be slashed under new proposals from the European Commission.
EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding warned phone companies last January to cut texting charges voluntarily or face EU rules forcing them to do so.
Yesterday she signalled that voluntary reductions so far were not enough and proposed dramatic moves to slash texting rates by as much as 60% to a maximum of 11 Euro cents (just under nine pence), and to reduce the cost of receiving data on a mobile phone while abroad.
She also recommended mandatory billing by the second, rather than minute, after the first 31 seconds — cutting wasted cost for those who finish texting just after a new billing minute has begun.
Conservative MEP Giles Chichester said he regretted that compulsory cuts in roaming call rates had not encouraged the mobile phone industry to bring down text rates and avoid more legislation.
“We had hoped the previous price cap would make the industry see the light and take action to avoid further intervention from the EU,” said Mr Chichester.
“Ideally we would like the industry to act itself to cut prices, but if it fails, the EU should be prepared to act in the interests of consumers.”
Three months after last year’s enforced roaming call price caps, a survey showed that roaming charges had fallen by an average of 60%.
The highest permitted roaming charges since summer 2007 have been 49 cents (34p) a minute for calls made on mobiles while travelling elsewhere in the EU, and 24 cents (16.6p) per minute for receiving calls while abroad.
But increased competition generated by the price caps meant UK mobile operators were only charging an average of 31.57 cents (21.9p) for calls made while abroad and 12.63 cents (8.7p)for calls received. Ireland also saw dramatic cuts in roaming costs to 32.23 cents (22.3p) for calls made and 15.70 cents (10.8p) for calls received.
Mrs Reding hopes that if MEPs and EU government ministers agree her latest plans, texting costs will show similar reductions below the agreed maximum price ceiling — itself nearly two-thirds lower than some current texting charges.