Text speak goes international

New EU price-capping regulations for mobile phone users come into force on the 1 July, reducing roaming charges for Brits using their mobile phones in France by up to 60%.

“The mobile phone price cap delivers a good deal for British consumers and means we’re not paying over the odds compared to citizens in other EU countries,” commented Europe minister Glenys Kinnock.

Brits sent more than 380,000 text messages between April and September 2008 while traveling within the European Union, at an average cost of 27p. The price cap will limit the price of text messages to just 10p.

Price caps have also been introduced on data charges for those using the internet on their mobile phone while abroad. The cost has been capped at a rate of 86p per mega byte of data, falling to 69p in 2010 and 43p in 2011.

And calling charges haven’t escaped scrutiny. The price of making calls will drop from the current 40p per minute to 37p, while the cost of receiving calls will plummet from 20p to 16p. Mobile phone operators are also being forced to introduce per second billing, after the first 30 seconds of any call, to prevent them from rounding up call charges to the nearest minute. Last summer, on average consumers paid for 20% more time than they had actually used.

In addition, by next year, consumers will have the option to set a cut-off mechanism on their phones, restricting use once call, data and text charges have reached a pre-determined level, avoiding any nasty surprises when you return home from your travels.

Ofcom has produced a set of guidelines for reducing costs when using your mobile phone while abroad.

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Ofcom’s top tips:

Enable your mobile phone: Check with your mobile provider that your phone has been enabled to use abroad. Operators are obliged to provide this information to customers. Check your handset: Check with your mobile provider that your handset will work in the country you are travelling to. Check the prices before you leave: Contact your mobile provider to check your tariff before you travel to help avoid unexpectedly high bills. Ensure you are getting the best deal: Check international packages offered by operators before you travel to ensure you are getting the best deal. The pan European tariff applies to voice calls and, from 1 July 2009, to texts: the pan European voice tariff (Eurotariff), which has helped to reduce the cost of calls, will be joined by a pan European text tariff (Euro-SMS) from 1 July 2009. The Eurotariff and the Euro-SMS tariff are available from all operators across most European countries, but are not available in Switzerland, Turkey or Croatia. Check your bundles: Don’t assume that the price of calls made abroad are included in your bundled package. Don’t forget voicemail: Remember that calling your voicemail from abroad can cost the same as making a call to the UK – check with your provider if in doubt. From 1 July 2009, you can no longer be charged every time someone leaves a message on your voicemail. If you want to avoid voicemail charges, you can switch off your voicemail before you leave the UK. Using mobile internet abroad: Be aware that when connecting to the internet via a mobile handset, dongle or data card (a portable modem which provides internet access via the 3G network) whilst abroad could cost significantly more than when using them at home. The local SIM option: If you are out of the country for a long period time, it could be cheaper to buy a local SIM card that can be used in your handset or a local dongle. Alert your operator immediately if your phone is lost or stolen: If your phone is lost or stolen when you are abroad remember that you could be liable for the cost of the calls made in that country. Make a note of the contact details of your operator before you travel to ensure that you can get in touch with them as soon as possible to report the loss.