/ Technology

Mobile roaming cost cuts don’t go far enough

Woman on a mobile phone in Paris

As of today, the cost of using your mobile within the EU has been cut. This should help holiday makers avoid the fear of opening their post-holiday mobile bills. It’s great news, but do the cuts go far enough?

After a relaxing holiday in Europe, the last thing you want to come home to is an enormous mobile bill. But now that risk should be reduced, as cuts have been made to the limits on how much you can be charged for using your mobile when travelling in the EU.

Cutting the cost of roaming

From now on, the maximum cost that mobile phone providers can charge you for making a call within the EU has been cut by 17% to just over 20p (excluding VAT). You won’t be charged more than 7p to send a text, or 6p a minute to receive a call. Maximum charges for using the internet in the EU have also been cut to 39p per megabyte.

I’ve always been put off using my mobile abroad by the prohibitively expensive charges I knew I‘d face. In fact, on a recent holiday to Denmark, I switched off roaming on my mobile altogether. Although I quite enjoyed turning off my connection to the rest of the world for a few days, the option to use Google maps or check my emails without fear of spiraling charges would have been useful.

Today’s cuts are definitely a step in the right direction, but I can’t help thinking they don’t go far enough. At current rates, the price for a single gigabyte of data could still potentially cost almost £400 while roaming in the EU. The way I see it, if I can live, work and study anywhere within the EU without jumping through hoops, surely I should be able to check my emails just as easily?

Free to roam the EU

Personally, I’d like to see the EU get rid of mobile roaming charges altogether. And thankfully, my wish could become a reality. Recently in Brussels, European Commissioners voted to fast-track a package of proposals that will see roaming fees completely scrapped for voice calls, texts and internet access.

At Which?, we want the Commission to press ahead with these plans, and put an end to uncertainty about using mobiles abroad. We also want the Commission to be vigilant – making sure the industry plays fair and doesn’t hike other charges to compensate.

But until roaming charges are scrapped, I think I’ll seek out free Wi-Fi in the hotel lobby rather than using 3G the next time I go on holiday. Do you think today’s cuts have gone far enough to help relieve your fears about using your phone abroad? Or will you wait until roaming charges are scrapped altogether before you switch on your mobile in the EU?


I am an Orange UK customer and when I spent 4 days in Belarus with my iPhone last year, I got a local SIM card from MTS, a local network there. I had a reasonable number of outgoing and incoming calls and text messages and also used a reasonable amount of data. Despite being prepaid, MTS gave me a fully itemised bill, which listed all the data I used as well as every outgoing and incoming call and text. The total bill over 4 days cost me £1.56. I imported the bill into Excel and calculated how much the same usage would have cost using an Orange UK SIM card. It would have been a whopping £1,237.38. I urge everyone to use local SIM cards, particularly when travelling outside the EEA.

I have a better idea dont use orange i was with then for 16 years untill this christmas i was due a free upgrade i got a samsung galaxy 3 i had it 3 days then it got nicked went to my local shop which is now called EE they wanted 300 quid of me to replace it and when i refused they said well what do you want us to do great custermor relashanship so i just went to another phone company and walked out in 15 mins with new phone on air [post edited by moderator]

I’m not sure what connection your experience has with roaming, but in any case a Samsung Galaxy S III costs around £380, so it sounds as if you got quite a good price from EE, paying only £300.

I agree roaming costs for data can scare you off even switching a smartphone on abroad in case you havent switched off the roaming properly.

Making the availability of an optional cap on charges compulsory on all network providers would be welcomed by many .

I agree with NFH that buying a local SIM card is a good option – pity it isnt possible to buy them direct from networks before you go.

“pity it isnt possible to buy them direct from networks before you go” – Indeed. For this reason I acquire SIM cards from countries I want to visit before I go there. Therefore I even have SIM cards from some countries where I’ve never been yet!

Nearly bought an Orange PAYG sim in Spain earlier this year but couldnt work out how long they are valid for unused.

Glynis says:
3 July 2013

I live in Spain and last month sent 11 texts to my son´s UK phone when he was in Spain at the airport . I have a Spanish vodafone and was charged 6 euros 60 cents. As for Jimbo´s comments. He had the phone nicked it wasn´t up to the shop to replace it claim on your insurance or hard luck.

gg says:
4 July 2013

For all the main networks, the new roaming rates are cheaper than the home rates! It’s time that charges within the UK are capped appropriately too.

Mobile data roaming charges are on the way out. The ban on data roaming charges from 15 June 2017 has received a final green light in the European Parliament: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34646434

Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said:

“The long-awaited move to scrap EU mobile roaming charges is a huge win for millions of travellers, especially those who have faced expensive charges for data roaming. This should put an end to uncertainty about using your mobile abroad and cut off bill shock. We now want the Commission to ensure that the industry doesn’t increase other charges and reform of the wholesale market is completed on time.”

You seem to have missed an important element of using smartphones in the EU. Being aware of the new ban on charging for EU data, I left my phone and data roaming switched on whilst on a cruise in December 2017, and made a point of turning it off whilst in Norway, which I considered to be outside the EU. However, upon my return, my O2 bill included £48.00 for data usage in Norway on 6th December, when we were en route from Southampton to Hamburg. Upon querying this with my local O2 shop (live chat was a waste of time), I was told that my phone had connected to the ship’s network, which connects, by satellite, to a land-base in Norway. Nowhere on the O2 website is this information given. O2 did give me a full refund.
Incidentally, today, on BBC1’s Rip-off Britain (9.15am) referred to this problem, but only linked it to cross-channel ferries.