Staying connected as you travel around Europe is about to get a lot cheaper for millions of EU citizens as new European Union price caps on mobile data roaming come into force.

From 1 July 2012, EU mobile operators will be able to charge no more than 70 euro cents plus VAT per megabyte for data while their customers roam in other EU countries.

The new rules will also see EU citizens traveling outside of Europe receive a warning text message, email or pop-up window when they are nearing €50 of data downloads, or their pre-agreed level. They will then be asked to confirm that they are happy to exceed this level in order to continue their data roaming. A similar warning system is already in place when traveling within the EU.

We’ve long bemoaned the excessive expense of data roaming. Just like SMS billing, mobile operators charge far more than they need to, simply because consumers don’t have any choice – or any awareness that it could feasibly be much cheaper.

The new rules are the first stage of a two-part program introduced by the European Commission in order to force operators to reduce their data roaming charges. From July 2014, customers will have the option to shop around for a separate mobile roaming provider while keeping their same number. Data roaming price caps will stay in force until 30 June 2017, by which time it’s hoped that market forces will keep prices low.