Europe to cap prices for roaming text messages and data

European telecommunications ministers gave their backing on Thursday to a plan to cap retail prices for sending SMS (Short Message Service) text messages and browsing the Internet using mobile phones while abroad.

In September the European Union's executive body, the European Commission, proposed slashing both the retail and wholesale prices for text messaging by introducing caps of €0.11 and €0.04 respectively. Average retail prices are currently estimated at around 0.29 euros, the Commission said.

It also proposed a cap on the wholesale price for downloading data of €1 per megabyte, and called for further reductions in the cost of voice calls when roaming.

"Ministers have answered the Commission's call for a speedy response to the SMS and data roaming rip-off very positively," said Viviane Reding, the telecommunications commissioner.

E.U. citizens sent 2.5 billion SMS messages, generating €800 million for their mobile phone operators last year, the Commission said. The cost of sending messages while roaming can be ten times more than sending a message from within the home country.

Slashing this price is seen as an essential part of creating one single European telecoms market, and an excellent way of illustrating the merits of the single European market to consumers.