Cause and Effect in European Politics and Law

From March 1st - a bill-shock limit over mobile Internet

euinside, March 2, 2010

European mobile operators are obliged from March 1st 2010 to offer their clients a cut-off limit facility for surfing the Internet with their mobile phones and laptops while traveling in other EU countries. The purpose of the new regulation, which is part of the Roaming Regulation of the EU is to protect customers from 'bill shocks' when they use mobile Internet. The mobile operators have to offer their clients a basic 50 euro cut-off limit monthly but they are also obliged to offer other opportunities for limits.

According to the Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes, "protection against data roaming bill shocks is a useful step towards building customers' confidence to use mobile networks to surf the Internet when traveling around Europe. Such confidence is essential if people and businesses are to use the Internet to its full potential".

How does the limit work? Customers will receive a warning when they hit 80% of the chosen limit. And by 1 July 2010, customers need to make a deliberate choice in order to benefit from a cut-off limit. But, customers who do not make a choice by 1 July 2010 will have the cut-off limit set at 50 euro by default as from that date.

The reason for the introduction of these restrictions are several shocking cases. A German traveller downloading a TV programme while roaming in France faced a bill of no less than 46,000 euro. In another recent example, a UK student was reported receiving a bill of almost 9,000 euro for data roaming during a single month while studying abroad.

According to the EU roaming rules, which entered into force on July 1st last year, operators are obliged to pay each other 1 euro per downloaded MB. This price will also drop in the next 2 years.

National telecoms regulators are responsible for ensuring that mobile phone operators comply with the rules on cut-off mechanisms for data roaming in each EU country. For Bulgaria this is the Communications Regulation Commission.

From the three Bulgarian telecoms only Globul put information about the new rules on a visible place on their website. However, their price is different from the quoted in the new EU regulation - it is 60 euro instead of 50. Mtel and Vivatel do not offer any information on their website or at least euinside was unable to locate it. This is why we advise you, if you are customers of these two telecoms, to call them and ask for more information if you are to travel around the EU from now on.