To use your mobile phone when abroad, you need to connect to a local network. The local (or host) operator will then charge your home operator for handling calls, texts and data. This is called mobile roaming.
The EU has been working for a number of years to reduce the cost for consumers and bring about an end to the so-called ‘shock bill’ that awaits them when they return home.
In October 2015, the European Parliament voted in favour of ending roaming charges by June 15, 2017. When this happens consumers will pay the same price for calls, texts, and mobile data wherever they are travelling in the EU.
To help prepare for this, new rules on roaming charges and net neutrality came into force on April 30, 2016, making it even cheaper to use a mobile or other device when travelling in the EU.
The road to ending EU mobile roaming charges
The Eurotariff, first introduced by the European Commission in 2007, capped maximum prices for phone calls made and received while abroad in the EU. These price caps are the maximum permissible prices and so operators are free to offer cheaper rates. These rules have been subject to a number of reviews, further reductions in price caps, and additional added protections for consumers.
One of these changes came on July 1, 2014, when a new maximum limit for calls, texts, and use of data was imposed. As of April 30, 2016, the cap has been reduced even further with operators only able to charge a small additional amount to domestic prices.
When mobile roaming in the EU, the new maximum limit for calls made is now €0.05 per minute and up to €0.0114 per minute for calls received. The maximum amount that can be charged per SMS text message sent is €0.02 and for data usage it is now €0.05 per MB.
The data roaming limit remains capped at €50 +VAT, and when you reach this limit you will be asked to expressly confirm that you wish to continue browsing.
Since July 2009 operators are obliged to charge per second but can apply an initial minimum charging period of 30 seconds. Mobile operators are no longer allowed to charge customers for the receipt of a voicemail message while roaming in the EU.
April 2016: How much do I pay for EU roaming charges now?
What you pay for making a call: €0.05 per minute
What you pay for receiving a call: €0.0114 per minute
What it costs a friend to call me: The normal charge stated by their operator
Cost to send SMS: €0.02
Data roaming: Maximum €0.05 per MB
(NB: These rates are exclusive of VAT)
Connect to the best network when travelling in the EU:
- There are several mobile networks in each country.
- When you arrive at your destination, you will probably be automatically connected to one – not necessarily the cheapest one for you.
- Before your trip, check with your mobile provider or ComReg so you can select the best network available as soon as you arrive.
- Consider switching from your current home network to another operator if they have a better deal. Remember the above fees represent the maximum prices operators are permitted to charge. Operators are free to offer cheaper rates.
Background to abolishing EU roaming charges
The EU Roaming Regulation of 2007 introduced a cap on roaming costs within the EU and provided for further reductions at future dates. In March 2012, the European Parliament, European Council, and the European Commission reached a preliminary deal on new EU Roaming rules, following a Commission proposal the previous year. This agreement came into force on July 1, 2012.
On September 11, 2013, the European Commission adopted a legislative package for a ‘Connected Continent: Building a Telecoms Single Market’. The aim of this was to build a connected, competitive continent and enable sustainable digital jobs and industries.
By April 3, 2014, the European Parliament voted to abolish roaming charges across the EU as of December 2015. However, the legislation was delayed as national governments could not come to an agreement on the exact terms of the text. On March 4, 2015, the European Council announced that it was sending the proposed legislation back to the European Parliament for further discussion.
The European Parliament’s plenary met in October 2015 and voted in favour of ending roaming charges by June 2017.