/ Technology, Travel & Leisure

Update: EU roaming charges are not quite a thing of the past

Paris phone

It seems we’ve seen a step back on roaming charges after the European Commission announced a catch on what appeared to be an otherwise great win for travelling mobile phone users.

For a while there, it looked like the worry of how to keep up to date with Facebook and emails, and the ever-risky endgame of ‘bill shock’ was going to be a thing of the past. After keeping us all in suspense for a fair few years, the European Parliament finally announced last year that it would be scrapping EU mobile roaming charges. At the time, this was taken to mean an end to uncertainty about using your mobile in the EU.

Roaming charges

Whenever I go on holiday to Europe, one of the first things I do is switch my phone to airplane mode – and that’s not just for safety reasons.

Unless it’s a real emergency, I’ll leave it like that for the whole trip, as I’m always terrified of getting home to a massive bill having accidentally gobbled up data while I’ve been having fun and taking it easy.

As much as I find it relaxing to go without my phone for a week or so, it would be nice to have the choice of staying online rather than entering a communications black hole.

Indeed, there are some provisions in place to protect consumers from astronomical mobile phone bills, such as text alerts and caps for reaching a certain thresholds – but to entirely remove the worry was what we were expecting.

The European Commission has said that consumers could only ‘roam’ for 30 days at a time and only for a total of 90 days in a year. After that, fees will still apply, with a cap of four cents [around 3.4p] per minute, one cent [0.83p] per SMS and 0.85 cents [0.71p] per MB.

This may well cover many consumers’ needs, but the crux of it is that it hasn’t really put an end to roaming fees at all. It’ll be fine for those people doing short trips within the European Union (EU), but anyone planning on spending over a month at a time there will still face the same old problems, as will anyone who needs a phone there for over 90 days of the year.

If you frequently travel within the EU, perhaps you split your time between there and the UK, travel there for work or are doing an Erasmus year at a European University, then your UK mobile is still going to cost you extra if you want to use it.

A fair charge?

So, at least at first glance, this is a bit of a setback in the fight for genuinely free mobile roaming. For now, I’ll just have to put up with airplane mode.

Update: 13 September 2016

The proposal by the European Commission to cap free mobile phone roaming in the EU at 90 days per year has been withdrawn.

A spokesperson for the European Commission said:

‘We have been listening, and now we are going back to the drawing board and we will come up with a better proposal’.

New guidelines are expected to be released in the coming days.

What do you think to mobile roaming charges? Do you think it’s fair to charge people extra for using their mobile while abroad? Or do the new guidelines go far enough for your needs?

Update: 22 September 2016

The European Commission has scrapped plans to cap free mobile phone roaming in the EU at 90 days per year and announced that there will be no limits on time or the volume of data used.

Officials revised proposals to put a limit on free roaming after it was met with widespread criticism.

Andrus Ansip, EU Commissioner for the Digital Single Market, said: ‘We will not put any kind of limits on duration or, how many days (travellers) can enjoy no roaming surcharges, but we decided to put some clear safeguards on residency,’

The new arrangements will be based on where phone users live or an EU country they regularly visit for work, and are expected to be finalised by the end of 2016.


Isnt the real point of this Convo resting on Article 50 and then two years of Brexit negotiations as checking on Vodaphone/BT etc they wont commit to saying the charges will stay as per the EU after the full Brexit. So to me, there is no “jumping for joy ” at the drop in charges which are ,in any case just like the charges applied when you dont have unlimited downloads ie- there is a time limit . Kyriakos a lawyer for Herbert Smith Freehills says to Bloomberg -the charges could be reinstated and that it will be down to the agreement reached by TM when it leaves the EU . If the UK leaves and is outside the EU AND the EEA , the regulations will not be automatically applied in the UK . So to me this is like complaining of toothache, taking an Aspro -pain goes –but later it comes back .


Yes, this could get complicated by the EU exit process, but the government could declare that UK citizens will enjoy the same facilities and T&C’s as those in continental countries and direct Ofcom to make that happen. The government will be desperately looking for ways to make Brexit palatable to a lot of people who will be disadvantaged and this is an easy one.

There is more than one way of making a telephone call and when I last looked they still had landlines in the rest of Europe. Landline calls could be more economical than mobile calls but it would be advisable to check first. Landline calls from hotels are unlikely to be cheaper, but again – it’s worth checking. That won’t help with keeping up-to-date on social media though, but some sacrifices are worth making.

Bishbut says:
7 September 2016

Some people have become obsessed by mobile phones and want to use them everywhere and all the time The are very useful but why can’t some people manage without one for even a few minutes. The have taken over and rule some people’s lives. The would rather die if they could not hold one in their hand all the time It they want to use one everywhere the should expect to pay not get to use one for free


Your right Bishbut it has now developed into a public neurosis , a real mental illness and I agree some people would think their lives are at an end without one . Its a “comforter ” a “cuddly toy ” so that they can face society more , but they dont face it bent over their mobile and dont dare interrupt them along with the anti-social headphones and people question why I complain about the new school course on how to communicate with other human beings . An image of an “open society ” is given – in reality its a closed , narrow one where adverts rule.


I’m often enough in France to think that the next time I’m there I may buy a SIM card. A friend of mine stays in the Canaries and has two SIM cards, one for the UK and one for Spain. It’s ridiculous what we have to do to circumvent greed on the part of mobile phone companies, but there we are.

I haven’t looked into it in too much depth, but Lycamobile for example seem to offer this: no contract, keep your own number (nae use in my case, I would want 2 numbers), free calls between Lycamobile numbers, cheaper national and international calls, a multilingual customer service. Another example is LeFrenchMobile ( :0) ), at first glance they seem to offer something interesting.


Some phones are able to take 2 SIMs (eg Motorola G which I have). V easy to use and allows you to choose which SIM you want to make a call or use data through dynamically. I think there are also dual SIM add-ons for phones which only have one SIM slot.

Smike says:
7 September 2016

Not ideal, but this is not as bad as it seems.

People who are going abroad for such protracted periods, should just buy a PAYG Sim card for the country in which they are spending so much time. They are cheap, or free when you top them up with enough for your anticipated use. It will be cheap to use and as it’s PAYG, cannot result in unexpected charges.

Of course, thanks to Brexit, you may be spending much less time in the EU anyway.

PeterM says:
10 September 2016

I spend 3 months in Portugal every six months and have a local PAYG Sim. However, if you forget, once home in the UK, to use the foreign Sim occasionally you lose the credit on the Sim along with the phone number and will have to buy another Sim (which means a new phone number) when you return. I use Lycamobile and have to remember to make at least one call every 61 days – it’s easily forgotten!