Calls and Texts
In 2017, ‘roam like at home’ came into effect allowing consumers to pay domestic prices for making calls, texts and using data while roaming in the EU/EEA. Previously, using your mobile phone while abroad meant extra charges in the form of roaming fees on top of your domestic mobile contract/bundle. These roaming charges occur when your mobile phone connects to a local network which charges your mobile operator for handling calls, texts, and data. Currently, the cost of making calls and exchanging texts when in another EU country is now exactly the same as when you are in your home country.
If a contract that includes unlimited data or very cheap data the operator may apply a safeguard which is also known as a fair usage policy, to limit data use when roaming. If this does apply, then the operator will have to inform the customer in advance about such as limit and alert them when they reach this limit. The operator should also provide you with a large volume of data but this depends on the price of your mobile bundle.
Roaming in 2021
On 24 February 2021, the European Commission proposed a new Regulation aimed at extending the roaming rules for another 10 years and enhancing its benefits for the citizens. Learn more about it here.
Find out more about the new mobile roaming rules from 2021 in the European Commission’s Roaming Q&A below.
1. Is it true that I will not pay anything extra when I travel and use my smartphone in the EU?
Your communications (phone calls, SMS, data) made from another EU country will be covered in your national bundle: the minutes, SMS and gigabytes of data that you consume abroad in the EU will be charged or deducted from the volumes of your national tariff plan exactly as if you were at home (in the country where you live, work or study). Contrary to the past, you will not have to pay anything extra. No bill shock anymore. Whether you use your mobile phone while periodically abroad in the EU or in the country where you live will not make any difference. You will roam like at home.
2. Are there any exceptions or hidden rules to this?
You can ‘roam like at home’ whenever you are in an EU country other than the country where you actually live (your effective home). If you move to and establish a durable residence in another EU country, you will no longer be able to benefit from roam like at home offers from an operator in the country you came from. You will be able to roam like at home with a mobile subscription of your new country of residence when you travel abroad in the EU.
3. How long can I roam like at home when I am abroad?
The general rule is that as long as you spend more time at home than abroad, or you use your mobile phone more at home than abroad, you can roam at domestic prices when travelling wherever in the EU. This is considered a fair use of roaming services.
If this is not the case, your mobile operator may contact you. Operators can detect possible abuses based on the balance of roaming and domestic activity over a four month period: if you spend a majority of your time abroad and consume more abroad than at home over the four months, the operator can ask you to clarify the situation within 14 days. If you continue roaming more than you are at home, your operator may start applying a small charge to your roaming consumption:
- €0.032 per minute for voice calls (+ VAT)
- €0.01 per SMS (+ VAT)
- €3 per GB of data (+ VAT)
The surcharges for mobile data gradually reduce each year. The maximum surcharge was €7.7 per GB (as of 15 June 2017), falling to €6 per GB (as of 1 January 2018), €4.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2019), €3.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2020).
The surcharges are capped at €3 per GB (as of 1 January 2021) and they will finally be capped at €2.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2022).
4. Are there any volume limits to calling, sending SMS and using mobile data at domestic price while I travel?
If at home you have unlimited calls and SMS, you will get unlimited calls and SMS when roaming in the EU.
If at home you have unlimited mobile data or very cheap mobile data, your operator may apply a safeguard (fair use) limit on data use while roaming. If this is the case, the operator will have to inform you in advance about such a limit and have to alert you in case you reach it. That safeguard limit will be high enough to cover most, if not all, of your roaming needs. Beyond this threshold, you can continue data roaming, subject to a small charge, which is capped at €3/GB + VAT and it will ultimately fall to €2.50/GB as of 01 January 2022.
5. Is roam like at home automatic or do I have to do something to activate it?
You do not need to set anything up. Your operator automatically ceases to apply the roaming charge when you roam abroad.
6. I never travel abroad in the EU. Will the new roaming rules have any impact on me?
If you do not travel abroad in the EU, nothing will change for you. You may receive a notification of changes in your contract regarding the new roaming rules, but if you do not travel abroad, you do not need to pay any particular attention to those changes. If, on this occasion, your operator notifies you of changes in any other conditions of your contract, you have the right to terminate your contract without penalty if you do not accept these changes.
7. What can I do if I go abroad and cannot use roam like at home and get charged extra?
You should first contest those extra charges with your operator, who should have a complaints procedure in place. If the operator persists, you should notify the relevant body in your country, usually your national telecoms regulator, who will settle the case.
8. Do my rights also cover the calls I make from home to friends abroad?
Not in the same way.
Calling from home is not roaming. The roam like at home rights cover communications (calls, SMS, data) made when roaming in the EU, which means when travelling abroad in the EU. The prices of calls from home to another EEA country (EU Member States and including Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) are regulated as from 15 May 2019. This Intra-EU communications price shall not exceed €0.19 per minute for calls and €0.06 per SMS, + VAT.
Kristina lives in Bulgaria and her daughter is studying in Germany thanks to the Erasmus programme. She normally calls her daughter for about 30 minutes a month. She pays around €2 per minute, which means, she spent around €60 every month for calling her daughter. With the Roaming Regulation, she pays a maximum of around €6, for the same amount of calls. In this case, ten times less than before and she saves €54 per month.
9. If I travel and call or text a friend, do I have to worry on which operator he/she is or whether it is a fixed or mobile?
When you are roaming in the EU, all calls to mobile and fixed numbers in the EU will be counted against your national volume of minutes (or will be unlimited if you have unlimited calls at home), exactly as if you were calling within your home country. If you have distinct so-called ‘on-net’ and ‘off-net’ volumes in your national bundle, all the roaming minutes may be all deducted from the off-net volume, and also when you call another subscriber of the same domestic operator while roaming.
If you have a Belgian card and you travel to France and call either a hotel in France, back home to Belgium, or to any other country in the EU and the EEA, you are roaming (refer to legal text on the regulation on roaming) , and you will pay Belgian internal domestic prices (refer to legal text).
However, if a Belgian SIM card holder calls from Belgium to Spain, she/he will pay the international tariff. Calls from home to another EU country are regulated by the intra-EU communication caps.
10. How will I be able to identify roam like at home tariffs with my local providers?
Roam Like at Home will be the default roaming tariff on all plans that include roaming. If you currently have a tariff plan including regulated roaming, you will be switched automatically to roam like at home. If you want to buy a new tariff plan that includes roaming, your operator will present that tariff plan to you with roam like at home by default.
11. If I travel, how much do I pay when I receive a call?
Since 15 June 2017, if you travel abroad in the EU: nothing – just as in home country!
12. In which countries can I roam like at home?
In all 27 countries of the EU: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and in the countries of the European Economic Area: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway.
13. Can I use roam like at home on ships within the EU?
As long as you are directly connected to a terrestrial mobile network (e.g. on rivers, lakes or along the coast) yes.
In all other cases, no. EU roaming rules apply only to terrestrial mobile networks. As soon as the services are provided through other types of radio networks, via satellite systems on board of ships or aeroplanes for instance, they are not subject to the binding price caps of the EU.
14. Is it still a good idea to take a temporary local SIM when travelling abroad for a long period (more than 2 weeks)?
For a few weeks, probably no.
The roaming ‘fair use’ rules are designed for people ‘periodically travelling’ in the EU. Therefore, if you plan to stay several months abroad without interruption, it is a good idea to check the roam like at home fair use policy applied by your operator to decide what is best in your particular case.
15. I often go abroad/I plan to stay a long time abroad. How do I know if I still get roam like at home?
The general rule is that as long as you spend more time at home than abroad or you use your mobile phone more at home than abroad you can roam at domestic prices when travelling anywhere in the EU. This is considered a “fair use” of roaming services. In order to determine if this is the case, your operator may check your roaming time and consumption over the last four consecutive months or longer.
If, during this time window, you have been more abroad in the EU than at home AND you have consumed mobile services more abroad in the EU than at home, your mobile operator can contact you and inform you that you may be subject to small charges if you continue to stay abroad. If, within two weeks from the moment you receive a warning, you re-establish prevalent home presence or consumption, no charge will apply. Otherwise, your operator may start applying the small charges (see also question 21) to your roaming consumption from the day of the alert onwards. Therefore, as long as your operator has not contacted you while abroad, you can roam like at home without any worries.
16. I have unlimited voice calls and SMS at home. Do I get unlimited voice calls and SMS in roam like at home?
Any volume restrictions for voice calls and SMS while roaming are no longer allowed.
17. I have unlimited data at home. How do I know the volume of roam like at home data that I get?
If your national mobile bundle includes unlimited data, your operator must provide you with a large volume of roam like at home data depending on the price of your mobile bundle.
Your operator should clearly inform you of this roam like at home data allowance. In case you use more data while roaming than the data allowance foresees, you may have to pay a small charge (See also question 21).
If you want to check the operator’s calculation, here is how: the roaming data volume must be at least twice the volume obtained by dividing the price of your mobile bundle (excluding VAT) by €3. For your information, €3 is the maximum price that your operator has to pay the foreign operator for 1 GB of data when you are abroad in the EU during 2021. This means that you may get more roam like at home data than the volume your operator can purchase with your monthly subscription from the foreign operator whose network you are using abroad.
At home, you have a mobile bundle including unlimited calls, SMS and data for €40 (€32 excluding 20% VAT). When travelling in the EU, you get roam like at home for unlimited calls and SMS, and at least 21.3 GB of data (2*(32 / 3) =21.3).
18. My data at home is not unlimited. How do I know if I get my full domestic volume of data in roam like at home?
If your operator has not explicitly informed you of a roaming data limit, you can benefit while abroad from the full amount of data under your domestic contract.
The operator is only entitled to apply a roam like at home data limit in 2021 in case you pay less than €1.5/GB of data used (in 2022 less than €1.25/GB). The actual limit depends on the monthly amount you pay for your mobile contract. The limit is calculated as in question 19.
At home you have a mobile bundle including unlimited calls, SMS and 3 GB of data for €30 (€25 excluding 20% VAT). In this case, €25 / 3GB = €8.3/GB. When travelling in the EU, you get roam like at home with unlimited calls and SMS, and 3 GB of data, exactly like at home.
At home you have a mobile bundle including unlimited calls, SMS and 10 GB of data for €18 (€14.4 excluding 20% VAT). The calculation is €14.4 / 10GB=€1.44/ GB. When travelling in the EU, you get RLAH with unlimited calls and SMS, and at least 9.6 GB of data (2*(14.4/3) =9.6). If the operator wishes to apply such a data limit while roaming, they must clearly inform you of the volume available and whenever you have consumed that volume while abroad.
19. If I do exceed the limits of roam like at home, what are the extra costs my operator can charge me with?
Beyond roam like at home fair use policy, your operator may apply a small charge on roaming consumption:
- 3.2 cents per minute of voice call made (+VAT)
- 1 cent per SMS (+VAT)
- €3 per GB of data (+VAT) (less than 1 cent per MB)
For calls made, this is 36% less than today’s charge and six times less than the charge in 2015. For SMS, this is 50% less than today’s charge and six times less than the charge in 2015.
20. I live near the border and my network often connects to the one of a neighbouring country, will I be able to roam like at home without any risks of exceeding my limits?
As long as your phone logs on to your domestic network once a day, you will be considered at home that day and not roaming. It does not matter whether your phone logs on to a network of the neighbouring country in the EU (be it from your country or because you spent part of the day in that foreign country). Roaming providers should also inform you on how to avoid inadvertent roaming.
21. I work in another European country than the one where I reside; will I be able to roam like at home without any risks of exceeding my limits?
In your case, you can choose a provider in either country and roam at the domestic price of that country: you can roam at domestic price with a SIM from the country where you reside or with a SIM from the country where you work. In both cases the roam like at home fair use policy will apply (as described in question 17), subject to the important additional point that any day when you log on at least once on the network of your domestic operator counts as a day of presence (even if you also go abroad that day).
22. If I only travel for 2-3 weeks abroad in the EU per year, can I use my national bundle without exceeding the limits of roam like at home?
You just need to keep in mind that, if you have unlimited data in your national bundle, your data may not be fully unlimited in Roam Like at Home. Or if you have a large amount of data for a very low price in your national bundle, you may have slightly less data at your disposal while roaming. In both cases, the Roam Like at Home volume of data that you will get will be large enough to cover all, or at least most, of your needs (See also question 19 and question 20). In addition, the applicable roaming charge beyond the roam like at home volume will be small (see also question 21).
23. I have a pre-paid card. Do I get roam like at home?
If you pay per unit, and your domestic unit price of data is less than €3 per GB, your operator may apply a roam like at home volume limit on data. That limit should be at least the volume obtained by dividing the remaining credit on your pre-paid card when you start using data roaming services (excluding VAT) by €3. For instance if you have €15 (€12 excluding a 20% VAT) left on your SIM card when starting roaming data, you will have at least 12/3 = 4 GB of roaming data. For your information, €3 is in 2021 the maximum price that your operator has to pay the foreign operator for 1 GB of data when you are abroad in the EU. This means that you get in Roam Like at Home exactly the volume of roaming data you have paid for in advance. For voice and SMS, you will pay exactly the same unit price as at home.