The price of making international calls and texts has now been capped
The European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, declared recently that the cost of calls between EU countries was roughly three times higher than domestic calls. Texting was double. Now, that has changed. A new law has gone into effect putting a ceiling on what telephone and mobile service providers can charge.
The Skinny #
EU consumers can now place calls from both landlines and mobile phones, knowing they can be charged no more than €0.19/minute. Texts are capped at €0.06/message. VAT is not included, as each member country has its own rules on that, though the range is between 17%-27%.
This new law does not replace the elimination of data roaming laws that went into effect in 2017. Rather, this runs in conjunction. To clarify: Roaming is what a person does whilst travelling outside their own country. Since June 2017, “roam like you’re at home” means just that. It was no longer legal for phone operators to charge extortionate roaming fees, and all EU mobiles could be used abroad for no extra cost. The one thing to be aware of is that if you are abroad, the EU roaming rules state that calls that you make will be charged as domestic calls, even if the call is made to the phone number of another member state. It’s as if you are using your Spanish mobile to make calls within Spain, even if you are in Germany.
This new law focuses on calls and texts made internationally whilst at home. For example, if you were at home in Spain and wanted to ring your parents in Italy, the cost/minute will be no more than €0.19 (+Spanish VAT).
The new law applies to all 28 EU Member states, and will soon include Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein. The law does not apply to business clients, as they typically have more advantageous plans than private consumers, nor does it work for calls made outside the EU, or with phones that do not have EU phone plans (Canadian, Chinese, etc).
Why is this Good? #
The benefits are certainly plain…paying less for calls is good, right?... and is a step in the right direction. The ultimate goal is to make all calling and texting within the EU standard, so that there will no longer be “international” calls amongst EU Member states. This is still a way off, though, so the concession has been a big one and shows willingness and cooperation.
There’s Always a “But”… #
These new measures definitely take some of the stress and unknown out of making international calls within the EU, but at the end of the day, it’s still cheaper to use WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, FaceTime and other VoIP providers. WhatsApp is free globally for both calls and texts, making it a top choice for many.
The other thing to be aware of is that the cap does not apply to bundle services. That’s to say that if your plan includes an hour of free calls anywhere in the EU for a set fee, you’re not eligible for the cap. Not a big deal unless you plan to spend hours swooning over a new love interest in another country, in which case, a switch may be in your future.
Finally, who knows what is going to happen post-Brexit. This may suddenly not apply to UK-based callers and could put a serious dent in any budget when travelling outside of the country.
All caveats aside, the new law has been made to protect consumers and their pocketbooks. And that is something we can all agree to get behind!
By Stephanie Horsman
28 May, 2019