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New limit for phone 'roaming' charges

IRISH mobile phone and laptop users who surf the net while travelling in other EU countries are to be protected -- after a German tourist was hit with a €46,000 bill.

The German was travelling in France when he incurred the huge "roaming" bill in 2009 after downloading a TV programme.

In another case, a British student got a €9,000 bill for data roaming during a single month while studying abroad.

The EU Commission in Ireland highlighted the cases as a new "cut off" protection mechanism came into effect this month.

From now on, European mobile phone operators are obliged under EU roaming rules to offer their customers a cut-off limit facility to protect them from "bill shock", like that suffered by the German traveller.

"Protection against data roaming bill shocks is a useful step towards building customer confidence to use mobile networks to surf the internet when travelling around Europe," said Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes.

"Such confidence is essential if people and businesses are to use the internet to its full potential."

Under new EU "roaming" regulations, mobile phone operators are obliged to offer their customers a monthly cut-off limit of €50. They can also offer customers any other limit. They will receive a warning when they hit 80pc of the chosen limit.