From Wednesday, May 15, the price of international calls within the EU will be capped at a maximum of 19 cents (excluding VAT) per call minute and six cents per SMS under new telecoms regulations. Usage limits imposed by operators will also be abolished.
The new rates are well below those often charged, according to the European Bureau of Consumers (BEUC) which notes that until now there have been significant differences between rates charged in Member States. In 2016 intra-European calls were billed anywhere between 60 cents to 1.99 euro per minute according to the BEUC.
“On average, the standard price of a fixed or mobile intra-EU call was three times higher than the standard price of a domestic call, and the standard price of an intra-EU SMS message more than twice as expensive as a domestic one,” the European Commission said in a statement.
“In some cases the standard price of an intra-EU call can be up to ten times higher than the standard price for domestic calls,” the Commission added.
In its statement announcing the change the Commission used as an example that of an Italian mother calling her son in Belgium for two hours a month from a fixed line. In this case, her monthly bill would drop from 105 to 27 euros.
However, many mobile plans already provide for low-cost intra-EU calls and, according to a Commission study, only four out of ten Europeans make a call to another Member State at least once a month.
The new ceiling rates for international calls and SMS only applies to individuals, with professional customers excluded from the price regulation given that several providers have special offers particularly attractive for business customers, the Commission said.
This ceiling was decided on 6 June 2018 after an agreement between the two co-legislators of the EU, the European Parliament and the Council, comprised of the 28 EU Member States. It follows the abolition of roaming charges, additional costs paid by the user when they made a phone call or sent an SMS from another EU country to another.
“After abolishing roaming charges in 2017, the EU has now taken measures against excessive charges for cross-border calls from home, Mariya Gabriel, Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, said. “Thanks to these two actions, European consumers are now comprehensively covered against bill shocks when calling any European number, both at home and abroad,” she added