EU May Regulate Text and Mobile Data Costs

Mobile phone users in Europe are paying high costs to text message or use mobile Internet services outside their own country, the EU’s telecoms chief said today. This word comes just a few months after the EU regulated the cost mobile phone service providers could bill for roaming charges outside a customer’s country of origin.

Last September the European Commission capped roaming fees for foreign travelers and prices dropped by as much as 60%. But there are currently no price limits on text messages and other mobile data transfers. EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding is concerned about the high cost and wide range of prices service providers charge for these applications.

“We will watch developments very closely and respond appropriately by the end of 2008,” she said.

Reding gave a similar statement when she warned phone companies that they need to reduce roaming charges when someone does a voice call outside his or her country of origin. Companies at the time didn’t heed her warning and the EU government stepped in to regulate roaming charges. It is illegal to charge more than 49 euro cents a minute for making a call, and 24 euro cents for receiving calls, outside travelers’ home countries. Before the regulation, a four minute boarder call from France to Germany would cost 4 euros even though a similar call made within France over a longer distance would just cost a few cents.

Text messages and data transfers are good money makers for mobile phone providers. It is estimated that EU members sent 202 billion text messages last year. It is likely that European phone companies will be scrambling to reach some sort of compromise with the EU Telecoms Commission before new price controls are set in place.