European carriers must now offer customers limits on their mobile internet use while roaming, under new laws introduced yesterday.
The move means operators must pre-agree a point at which mobile internet access is cut-off for customers traveling in Europe, and should spark an end to cases where users have unconsciously racked up huge bills while traveling – something the EU calls “bill shocks”.
Customers who pre-agree limits will get a warning when their credit limit is about to expire. The EU’s amended roaming rules suggest a typical cut-off point of €50 ($68).
Neelie Kroes, EU digital agenda commissioner, says the limits will increase consumer’s confidence in mobile roaming, which in turn should boost mobile internet usage. “Such confidence is essential if people and businesses are to use the internet to its full potential.”
The updated roaming rules come after at least two cases where users have been hit with huge bills for surfing while traveling. The EU cites the case of a German user who was billed €46,000 for downloading a TV program while visiting France.
In a separate case, a UK student was billed almost €9,000 for surfing the web using a 3G dongle while studying in France. The user believed he was entitled to 3GB of free downloads, and had even restricted his usage to making Skype calls to avoid going over that limit.
The EU has already capped the wholesale price of data at €1 per MB, and says that figure will fall over the next two years, which should result in a similar fall in consumer pricing.