On Tuesday Members of the European Parliament finally gave the green light to a ban on roaming charges.
But we’ll have to wait a while before our phone bills come down with the ban not set to come into force until June 15th 2017.
Roaming charges vary enormously between telecoms operators and many mobile phone users have ended up paying exorbitant rates – often without knowing in advance – to make calls, send texts or go online when travelling within the 28-nation European Union.
The extra costs have long been at the centre of a battle between EU officials backed by consumer groups, and mobile operators.
There was anger earlier this year when the European Commission decided to drop plans to abolish roaming charges from 2016 after objections from telcos in smaller member states.
But on Tuesday Commission Vice-President Andrus Ansip, responsible for the Digital Single Market, signalled the end of the current regime.
“The voice of Europeans has been heard,” he said.
“Today's vote is the final result of intense efforts to put an end to roaming charges in the European Union and to safeguard the open internet.
“As from mid-June 2017, Europeans will pay the same price to use their mobile devices when travelling in the EU as they do at home. And they will already pay less as from April 2016.”
An interim cap on the extra costs will kick in from April 30th 2016, before the full ban takes effect the year after.
That cap will mean operators can only add a surcharge of no more than:
- €0.05 extra per minute for calls
- €0.02 extra per text message sent
- €0.05 extra per megabyte of data used
But while the ban sounds like great news for anyone with a mobile phone who likes to travel, critics have issued warnings.
They suggest any dip in profits for the mobile phone companies that comes through an end to roaming charges will simply be balanced out by a rise in prices of mobile phone contracts in general, including for those people who don't even travel.