The cost of sending text messages on your mobile phone while abroad in the EU is set to fall sharply in July, after a new law was approved on Wednesday.

Similarly, the price of Internet downloads onto your mobile while you are travelling in the EU will drop, and calls made from abroad will be charged per second, rather than per minute. Currently European consumers are paying as up 24 percent too much because their calls are rounded up to the nearest minute, according to the European Commission, the regulatory and executive branch of the EU.

The European Parliament rubber-stamped the update of roaming laws on Wednesday at a plenary meeting in Strasbourg.

A text message sent from abroad in the EU will cost no more than 0.11 euros (9 pence) from 1 July, instead of 0.28 euros (25 pence) today, the European Commission said in a statement.

The vote means the new rules will be in place in time for summer holidays, the Commission said.

The new law also cuts the price of mobile phone calls while roaming in another EU country. The present cap for a mobile phone call made abroad will progressively drop from 0.46 euros to 0.35 euros per minute by July 2011, and from 0.22 euros today to 0.11 euros for mobile calls received while roaming abroad.

Mobile operators will also be required to bill roaming calls by the second from the 31st second at the latest.

"Today's vote marks the definite end of the roaming rip-off in Europe," said EU Telecoms Commissioner Viviane Reding.

The new EU roaming rules in a nutshell:

  • The price that consumers can be charged for sending a text message while abroad will be capped at 0.11 euros (excluding VAT), compared to a current average of 0.28 euros.
  • Data roaming charges are substantially reduced (the cost of surfing the web or downloading movies with a mobile phone while abroad) by introducing a wholesale cap of 1 euro per megabyte downloaded, compared to an average wholesale price of 1.68 euros per megabyte, with peaks in Ireland (6.82 euros), Greece (5.30 euros) and in Estonia (5.10 euros). The wholesale cap will fall to 0.80 euros in 2010 and to 0.50 euros in 2011.
  • Consumers will be protected from so-called "bill shocks" by allowing customers to choose a cut-off mechanism once the bill reaches 50 euros, unless the consumer opts for a higher limit. Operators will have until March 2010 to put these transparency measures in place.
  • Reduced price caps for mobile roaming calls. Now at 0.46 euros for calls made and 0.22 euros for calls received abroad, the caps will go down to 0.43 euros for calls made and 0.19 euros for calls received abroad on 1 July; to 0.39 euros and 0.15 euros on 1 July, 2010; and to 0.35 euros and 0.11 euros by 1 July, 2011 (all prices per minute, excluding VAT).
  • Per-second billing after the first 30 seconds for roamed calls made and from the first second for calls received while abroad.

The EU roaming website offers an overview of current roaming tariffs per country.