April 24 2014 Latest news:

Plans to slash the cost of data roaming charges for mobile phone users within the EU have been announced by the European Commission.

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The proposals include allowing customers from 2014 to have a cheaper mobile roaming contract, separate from their normal mobile contract but with the same phone number.

Meanwhile, from July next year, mobile operators – including “virtual” operators that do not have their own networks – would be able to use other operators’ networks in other EU member states at regulated prices.

The European Commission said it would make it easier for more operators to compete on the roaming market.

“This proposal tackles the root cause of the problem – the lack of competition on roaming markets – by giving customers more choice and by giving alternative operators easier access to the roaming market,” said Neelie Kroes, European Commission vice-president for the digital agenda.

“It would also immediately bring down prices for data roaming, where operators currently enjoy outrageous profit margins.”

Under the commission’s plans, roaming consumers would pay no more than 22p a minute to make calls, 9p a minute to receive calls, 9p to send text messages and 45p per megabyte to download data or browse the internet while abroad.

Dominic Baliszewski, of Mobilechoices.co.uk, said: “The European Commission’s proposal for new roaming rules would be a further victory for consumers who all too often come home to extortionate bills for hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

“However, it is a shame they will not come into effect immediately instead being introduced in stages.”

He added: “Consumers will still need to check the smallprint before jetting off on holiday, as different networks will likely apply the cap differently and, more than likely, will vary in the application of the new reduced limits.

“For example, some will offer this cap on a worldwide basis and others only within the EU.

“The costs may be reduced but confusion will remain, so mobile networks need to make their interpretation of the rule changes completely clear and transparent if consumers are to avoid being stung.”

The charges mobile operators impose on their customers have been under the spotlight recently, with many people stung for using their phones abroad.

The growth in smartphones has brought the issue to the fore, with even limited use of these devices sometimes seeing customers landed with huge bills.

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