As of today and just in time for the upcoming traveling season, European Union-based mobile phone operators are obliged under EU roaming rules to offer their customers a cut-off limit facility to protect them from so called "bill shocks" for surfing the Internet with their mobile phones and Laptops while travelling in other EU countries. Under the roaming rules adopted by the EU's Council of Ministers and European Parliament in June 2009, this cut-off mechanism will, following a warning, cut consumers' mobile connection to the internet while abroad when their bill reaches a specified limit.
Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes commented "Protection against data roaming bill shocks is a useful step towards building customers' confidence to use mobile networks to surf the Internet when travelling around Europe. Such confidence is essential if people and businesses are to use the Internet to its full potential".
Carriers are obliged to offer their customers from 1st March 2010 a monthly cut-off limit of 50 Euro. They can also offer customers any other limit. They will receive a warning when they hit 80 % of the chosen limit. Until 1st July 2010, customers need to make a deliberate choice in order to benefit from a cut-off limit. But, customers who do not make a choice by 1st July 2010 will have the cut-off limit set at 50 Euro by default as from that date.
The cut-off limit available from 1st March 2010 will guarantee more transparency and protection for consumers, and it will ensure that they will no longer face bill shocks for using data roaming services.
As an example of the problem, in 2009, a German traveler downloading a TV program while roaming in France faced a bill of no less than 46,000 Euro! In another recent example, a UK student was reported as receiving a bill of almost 9,000 Euro for data roaming during a single month while studying abroad.
Thanks to the EU's roaming rules, the price that operators pay each other per megabyte (MB) downloaded has been limited to a safeguard level of 1 Euro per MB and it will fall over the next two years. These savings should be passed on to consumers and deliver lower prices for surfing the Internet while abroad.
Member States' national telecoms regulators are responsible for ensuring that mobile phone operators comply with the rules on cut-off mechanisms for data roaming in each EU country. Consumers can contact the national regulator in the Member State where they reside if they encounter any problems or have concerns over these cut off limits.
For its part, the European Commission will continue to monitor developments in roaming services and the correct implementation of these provisions, in close cooperation with BEREC , the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications, which held its first meeting on 28th January 2010. The Commission will analyze the functioning of the roaming Regulation, including the provisions on data roaming, in an interim report due in June 2010 and in a more extensive review in June 2011.
Cheers ~ Arne