EU on the button with capping of mobile phone tariffs

NEW mobile phone tariffs which could save UK residents money when they make and receive calls abroad come into force today.

Some users may have already asked their network provider to apply the Eurotariff, but call charges will be capped for everyone from today.

The highest permitted charges will be 34p a minute for calls made on mobiles while travelling elsewhere in the EU and 17p per minute for receiving calls while abroad.

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Mobile users with a phone contract which already beats the Eurotariff should stick with their current service, the European Commission advised.

The Eurotariff maximum rates will apply for one year, then fall over the next two years to 30p for calls made abroad and 13p for received calls while roaming. After three years, the legislation falls - unless the European Commission feels market forces to keep costs down require another nudge.

But by then, the commission hopes, operators will be in healthy competition.

The EU telecoms commissioner, Viviane Reding, said: "We hope we've now seen the last of excessive roaming charges.

"The commission will, however, continue to monitor prices, in particular for SMS and data roaming, to make sure consumers do not suffer in other ways and to ensure after three years there is no longer a need to regulate. I hope that operators now understand the EU's ability to act. My message to them: Move now and bring SMS and data roaming charges down quickly, or we will be forced to also intervene there very shortly."

The commissioner's next target is understood to be a reduction in the cost of calling mobile phones from landlines - a move likely to be fiercely resisted by phone companies in the UK where the licences to provide many phone services are sold by the government for a hefty fee.

Last month, a survey by found many customers were unsure which charges had applied over the summer months.

The company's survey revealed that three-quarters of UK mobile owners were unsure about charges for making and receiving calls when overseas.

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One-quarter named extra charges as the biggest criticism of their network and almost two-thirds said they would change networks if offered a more cost-effective tariff.