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EU Parliament votes to cap cost of intra-EU calls

Strasbourg, France - The European Parliament voted Wednesday to cap the cost of international phone calls within the European Union, in a package of measures aimed at modernizing communications networks and better protecting consumers.

The EU has already scrapped roaming fees for people using their mobiles to call home from another member state, in a popular move seen by many as one of the more tangible benefits of the bloc.

The new proposals are supposed to take effect on May 15, 2019, just days before European Parliament elections in which eurosceptic parties could make significant gains.

Under the proposals, overwhelmingly backed on Wednesday, phone calls from one EU member state to another will cost no more than 19 euro cents (0.21 dollars) per minute, from both landlines and mobile phones. Text messages will be capped at a price of 6 cents per message.

EU member states still need to give their approval for the changes to take effect, although the move is considered a formality after agreement in principle was reached in June.

The new provisions will also strengthen security requirements and better protect smartphone users, according to parliament. Customers will be able to keep their telephone number for one month after a contract has ended.

Member states, meanwhile, will be obliged to encourage the roll-out of high-speed 5G mobile technology by 2020, as well as put in place systems to alert people by SMS in the case of major emergencies or disasters.

The European Consumer Organization BEUC welcomed the changes, calling them the "logical next step" after the end of roaming charges.