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Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Tuesday, 1 July 2008 12:01 UK
Euro text fees 'must come down'
By Jim Reed
Newsbeat technology reporter

Nokia mobile phone
Sending a text from an EU country can cost as much as 30 pence

Mobile phone companies could be forced to cut the cost of texting home from places like France, Spain and Greece.

The European telecoms watchdog reckons some customers are getting ripped off by high text and internet fees when they use a phone abroad.

Sending a single text from an EU country like Sweden, Germany or Poland can cost as much as 30 pence depending on the network operator.

Data fees for browsing the internet or sending email are also expensive with some networks charging as much as 4.99 per megabyte compared with less than 1 per megabyte in the UK.

Expensive trips

Ronnie, 19, has just got back from a two-month trip backpacking around Europe. She used a pre-pay mobile phone to stay in touch with her mum and boyfriend by text.

"I was expecting it to cost about 30," she told Newsbeat. "But when I returned I found it was more than 120. I wasn't expecting to have debts when I came back.

"My parents had to keep topping up my phone for me. I worked for the trip for eight months and now I have to pay back another 100."

Texts from abroad
Vodafone 25 pence
O2 25 pence
Three 25 pence
T-Mobile 40pence (20p from September)
Orange 30 pence
All prices on monthly contracts

The watchdog has already forced mobile phone companies to cut the cost of calling from abroad.

Prices for international calls from other EU countries have dropped by up to 60% since fees were capped by law last year.

Now it has set a deadline of 1 July for companies to cut their text and data fees, saying it will not "tolerate" a rate of more than around 10p per text message.

Some British operators have already started to reduce their rates ahead of the deadline.

T-Mobile is cutting its fees for EU text messages from 40p to 20p each from the start of September while O2 recently cut the price of its pre-pay mobile phone messages from 49p to 25p per text.

But Viviane Reding, who is in charge of the telecoms watchdog in Brussels wants mobile phone companies to go much further.

"Roaming customers who use their mobile phones when crossing a border in Europe, feel literally punished when they receive their phone bills," she said.

The EU is now likely to demand stronger price reductions although these will not come into force until the autumn.

Come down

Mobile phone companies are unhappy at the move.

David Pringle from the GSM Association, which represents the industry, says prices have already come down by a quarter over the last year.

"We think that products and services shouldn't be regulated in a competitive market," he said.

"The price of bread isn't regulated, price of televisions isn't regulated. Other goods and services are not regulated in this way."

Phone calls
Prices for international calls have dropped by up to 60%
Some mobile phone companies also offer text and data bundles which, they say, can reduce the overall cost of using a phone abroad.

But smaller UK operators like Three support the move by the watchdog to force prices down.

They say they would like to make texting and web surfing cheaper to grow the overall market but cannot afford to while larger mobile companies refuse to reduce their own fees.

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