New moves limiting mobile phone bills for surfing the internet came into force today – potentially saving customers from “horrible shocks”, according to the European Commission.

From today customers can oblige mobile phone operators to cut them off when their surfing bill reaches a pre-set amount.

And if customers do not set their own spending limit, EU rules require the operator not to allow the bill to exceed €50 a month without warning the mobile phone user in advance.

The €50 limit runs until July, by which time the Commission hopes users will routinely be informing their service provider of their required spending ceiling.

“This is very good news for customers,” said Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd.

“From today everyone has the right to set their own spending limit for surfing the net, so they don’t get a horrible shock at the end of the month, and find themselves charged huge amounts of money for using a so-called ’Dongle’ with your laptop or smart-phone to surf the internet.”

He went on: “This limit is individually set – it can be €20, €200, or €2,000 or whatever.

“The idea is that, when 80% of the cash limit has been reached, the operator will have to warn the customer that you are approaching the limit and will be cut off, unless that limit is changed, of course.”

The Commission says that if service providers do not honour the spending limit set by the customers, national authorities will deal with complaints, and impose sanctions on operators if they consider it necessary to enforce today’s new rules, which are part of the Commission’s latest legislation on mobile phone charges.

Already charges for using mobile phones when abroad have been slashed by 60%.

Mr Todd said the effect of the net-surfing limits would be to cut prices too:

“It will encourage people to use mobile phones to surf, because they know they will not get any more horrible shocks.

“And this measure is likely to bring down the cost of ’data roaming’ because if people stick to their own cash limits and find they don’t get much access to the Internet for their money, the tendency will be to bring down prices so you get more surfing for your money.”

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