Europeans will pay less roaming charges when using their smartphones or tablets across EU borders from July 1 under new price caps adopted Thursday to end exorbitant bills for consumers.
The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to reduce the maximum rate telecommunications companies can charge for people to make phone calls, send text messages or surf the Internet across the 27-nation European Union.
Europeans vacationing in neighbouring countries often complain of returning home to huge bills after having made calls, sent emails or downloaded photos outside their home nation.
"By putting price caps on data we have created a roaming market for the smartphone generation," said the European Union commissioner for telecommunications, Neelie Kroes.
"More than that, we have ended the rip-offs familiar to anyone who has used a mobile phone while travelling abroad," she said after parliament voted 578 to 10 for the new rules.
The European Commission estimates, for example, that a Belgian family of four going on holiday for a week in France or Italy will save up to 200 euros ($260) to use data services on their smartphones.
For business people, such as a Briton going to France or Germany 10 times for three days during the year, the savings could amount to around 1,000 euros.
The new rules will for the first time cap the rate the industry can charge for people to use data across borders. The limit will be set at 70 cents per megabyte this year, drop to 45 cents in 2013 and settle at 20 cents in 2014.
The rate to make a call will drop from 35 cents to 29 cents per minute this year, coming down to 19 cents in 2014.
The price cap to receive a call will be eight cents per minute this year before settling at five cents in 2014.
Sending a text message will cost nine cents this year before falling to six cents in 2014.
The directive will also allow consumers to buy roaming services from operators outside their home country from July 2014 in a bid to improve competition in the single EU market.