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EU to curb phone costs, set up emergency alert system

December 5, 2018 at 10:09am

The EU will limit prices for phone calls and text messages between member states and set up an alert system during natural disasters or terror attacks.

Under the new law, telecom firms will be barred from charging more than 19 cents per minute for calls and six cents per text message.

The price ceilings are set to take effect on May 15, 2019.

“There will be no more excessive fees on intra-EU calls and text messages,” said Lambert van Nistelrooij, a Dutch member of parliament from the centre-right EPP group.

He said the price limits complement the EU move last year to end roaming charges for Europeans using mobile phones within the bloc—a public relations coup.

It meant Europeans calling, texting or using the internet when travelling in other EU nations will be charged the same as they are at home.

Emergency Alert System

Europeans will be sent official alerts on their mobile phones if they are near a terrorist attack or natural disaster under an EU plan to replace the traditional emergency siren and reduce the risk of fake news causing chaos.

The lack of early warning for passersby at the time of the Westminster and Paris attacks, and the risk to lives posed by unofficial and inaccurate communications, prompted the move.

Similar systems exist in the US, but many European countries still use the same emergency sirens used in the second world war to alert citizens of an impending danger, the Guardian writes.

European governments will be asked to work with mobile phone providers to bring in the new public warning system in which text messages will tell people the nature of the threat, its location, and the best next steps to take.

Benoit Vivier, public affairs manager at the Brussels-based NGO the European Emergency Number Association (EENA), which works to improve member states’ crisis management, said: “Take any of the recent large emergencies in Europe –whether man-made or natural – and you will realise in most cases modern public warning was not in place.

EU member states will have 42 months after the legislation comes into force to establish the emergency system.