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By James Restall
Mobile phone companies can no longer “rip off” students setting off on European holidays this summer, thanks to the capping of call costs.
The European Parliament has voted to slash the prices of calls, texts and internet browsing by over a third, in an attempt to curb the excessive bills faced by tourists using their phones abroad.
From 1 July 2012, the price of a mobile phone call from Europe will fall from an average of 30 pence to 24 pence per minute before VAT, while customers will be charged 8 pence for each text they send. Holiday browsing has been capped for the first time at 58 pence per megabyte.
UK phone companies have taken on board the new tariffs and are now charging around 28 pence per minute for calls, leaving Vodafone customers better off by 8 pence for every minute when they ring home.
The biggest savings will be made by those updating friends and family on Facebook or checking online.
Before the regulations came into effect, O2 were charging £3.07 for every megabyte of data downloaded, but this has been limited to 69 pence. Data roaming must now be charged per kilobyte which will result in significantly cheaper browsing bills. Checking emails uses roughly 100 kilobytes and now costs just under 7 pence.
Labour MEP Peter Skinner said: “Brits travelling abroad this summer will really feel the difference in their pocket. The mobile phone companies have been ripping off holidaymakers for too long.”
The MEP, who sits on the European Parliament’s Industry Committee which drew up the new price caps, added: “It will be cheaper to make a call, send a text or check Facebook or the football scores online. Overall prices will come down by about a third this July.
“The barrier charging different rates across national boundaries is totally artificial – phone signals don’t know they’ve crossed a border!”
Second year French and Italian student Ralph Torrance commented: “As a student jetting off to Italy this summer, the changes are nothing but good news. I like talking and I don’t like spending money.”
Alex Francioni, a second year medic about to travel to Bulgaria was more sceptical, saying: “It’s fantastic, but they will still find ways of charging more.”
But Skinner’s press officer Juan Leahy said that the new rates are “the maximum people are legally allowed to be charged.”
He added that if mobile phone companies broke the European Parliament’s regulations “they could be taken to court by the government or the European Union.”
The changes represent an initial average reduction of 35 per cent. The European Parliament plans to bring mobile phone charges in line with national tariffs, looking to bring the price of calls down to 12 pence per minute or less by 2014.