EU to regulate cost of 'data roaming'

Travelers charged thousands to download shows

BRUSSELS -- EU Media and Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding on Tuesday announced plans to force phone companies to cut the cost of downloading movies and music for consumers traveling within the EU.

The move comes after complaints from travelers charged thousands of dollars to download shows onto their laptops or mobile phones.

Under current EU rules, operators can charge extra rates for mobile users who download outside their home country. Reding said that the principle of the EU's internal market was that prices should be more equal across borders. Her proposals aim to ensure greater transparency in "data roaming" tariffs to avoid "bill shock" by naming and shaming operators that overcharge for travelers.

Reding held back from announcing price caps for data roaming -- when customers use laptops or cell phones abroad to access the Internet -- but warned operators that if they did not voluntarily lower prices this summer, caps may be announced in the fall.

Earlier this month, a British vacationer, Iayn Dobsyn, was shocked to receive a $63,259 cell phone bill for downloading an episode of "Prison Break" on his laptop while in Portugal.