/ 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.

Comments
Member

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 .

Member

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.

Member
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

Member

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.

Member

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.

Member

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.

Member
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.

Member
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!

Member

have just been abroad got 1000 minutes contract but was told by manager in EEstore that UK was not in europe so numbers phoned in UK were charged extra

Member
Member

EE has said it will comply with the change in charges from June 2017 . While it is well advertised that in the interim that a cap has been put on operators calls and a cap on roaming charges which are small /minute . Calls will go down from approx= 16p/minute to 4.4p/minute as will smartphone calls . But contrary to what is said by the big phone companies roaming charges are levied on top of the cost of a UK call ,so a call from Madrid to Manchester for 5 minutes of your calls allowance is used PLUS you pay a top-up rate of 4.4p -a total of 22p to the UK operator . There are other charges relating to Pay-as-you Go which are expensive. The UK is still in Europe,as we speak .

Member

It’s all a bit familiar. “Let’s make it as complex as possible a la power industry to confuse the consumers.”

Well that’s what has been achieved. What I’d like to see is genuine removal of roaming charges so that if I have a package deal that gives me 500 mins calls, unlimited texts and 5 GB data a month, it should be valid anywhere in the EU.

But the EU is incapable of getting anything right which is why we are leaving.

Member
kel meyler says:
8 September 2016

Have to say everywhere you go today you young and some not so young with mobile phones stuck in the ear or they are texting, it has become an epidemic. Since I retired I have blown my phone out of the window, when I go on holiday it does not get switched on for a week, it is blissful. For some reason I seem to survive I just don’t how but I do. At the end of the day I suppose I am one person the mobile phone companies will never make money out of, leave that to business and the young.

Member

I don’t wish to publicise a particular mobile provider but I’m with 3 (Three) and we get all our minutes, texts AND data up to our monthly limit weather in UK or Europe. In fact we spend nearly six months in France (in three trips) and it works fine for us.
What will happen on Brexit we will have to wait and see!

Member
Gerry Mewton says:
10 September 2016

More importantly, we should be pushing the phone companies to guarantee no roaming charges for UK customers if we leave the EU. We could find ourselves paying roaming charges at the rate fixed for non EU states.

If the companies do not agree then it may be possible to buy a pay as you go phone from an EU country (Ireland for example) and use that when on trips to Europe.

Member

I feel distinctly relaxed about these proposals. My wife and I have EE phones, and it’s a lot cheaper to use these on the continent than when back in the UK. EE charges us 40p per min (rising to 50p shortly) for calls in the UK, but when we were in Norway last week, we got texts from EE saying that the charge to phone anywhere in Europe would be 3.7p per min, capped at GBP2 per day. It’s a mad world.

Member

Different government in Norway EEB- socially inclusive with a very large North Sea Oil pot of money put by to help the population , now where did ours go ?

Member

The dual SIM card phone is the route I took – phones that take two cards are now widely available at similar prices to those with only one card. Both my SIM cards are PAYG, one for UK and one for Cyprus, so no nasty bill surprises. Additionally, if I am in a third country and wish to make a call, I can choose to make it with the SIM that has the lowest charges – almost invariably the Cyprus card!

Member

Here’s an update for you all, the proposal 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.

Member
David Taylor says:
15 September 2016

Whatever the outcome, it will only be for two years or so as it will not necessarily apply after we leave the EU. In any case, I would imagine the companies will put their charges up generally to cover any loss of income from this measure. Stay at home citizens will pay more.

Member

I cannot see any reason why this measure cannot continue after we leave the EU. It will soon become an ordinary element of each company’s pricing strategy incorporated in their tariff. They are hardly likely to reintroduce a separate roaming charge [and also impose that on visitors to the UK from the EU]. It’s a good reason to ensure there continues to be a healthily competitive UK mobile phone market so no more consolidation should be allowed.

Member
Bryan says:
12 May 2017

On arrival at my departure airport for a 11day holiday after checking in my baggage I was handed a letter with my name on but no date saying my accomadation was not available although this had been confirmed in February 2017
the letter stated we could have fourty pound compensation each or cancel the holiday which had been paid for by credit card
What are my options our holiday was totally ruined was not of our choice did not meet the specification we had booked plus on arrival at the destination airport we had to endure over a two hour wait before being told to try out the accomadation the company had provided

Member
Mrs Margaret Hope says:
3 June 2017

Having checked in manually we arrived at gate 12 we waited 10 hours before being told our flight was ‘Cancelled’ and instructed to ‘Go home’. The queue for BA Information was endless so we didn’t try to retrieve our checked luggage. By that time we were exhausted. No tannoy announcements were made at any time – only a couple of enterprising BA staff stood on a desk and shouted into the crowd (now dense as no planes were relieving the build up in Departures.) We were supposed to be flying to Rome to join a Cruise ship which sailed at 6pm and although our tour operators tried to see if they could get us on any flight at all – by any carrier – to catch up with the boat at any port en-route, their efforts were all to no avail. There was no possibility of joining the cruise and so our holiday was aborted.
It was a thoroughly unpleasant experience made worse by no communication at all from BA.

Member
Lionel Harvey says:
17 June 2017

I am a bit confused , is it still free to phone or text if you have a GB contract and phone say a Spanish phone number whilst in Spain. Or is it just that you don’t pay roaming charges if you phone from Spain to GB?

Member

I am nearly as confused as you Lionel but for an entirely different reason , Which has more than one convo on this subject and I answered your query on the other convo in reply to another poster with the nearly the same post as you. If you buy a local Spanish sim card you can contact someone IN Spain IF –you are in Spain at local rates but you cannot then be contacted on your UK number read : https://www.cnet.com/news/going-abroad-try-a-local-sim-for-your-smartphone/ there is additional info as well.

Member

As I understand it, Lionel, UK travellers in the EU will be able to use their phones with no roaming charges just as though they were making the call from the UK. So the call charge for a call from a UK registered phone in Spain to a Spanish registered phone in Spain will be the same as if the call were made on the UK phone within the UK. If there is a need to make numerous calls on the Continent then a local sim card could be more economical. It can be replaced with the UK sim card after making the local call so that incoming calls will still be received. Couples with two phones between them can probably sort out a workable arrangement.

Member
Aitch says:
11 July 2017

Beware the Faroe islands. I discovered the hard way last week that, despite the Denmark connection, they are NOT in the EU.

Member
Kenneth Shevill says:
27 September 2017

I have been on a cruise around the Shetlands because of weather problems we could not dock i did pick up a signal from shore and received my emails, when i did go ashore and got Wifi found my phone blocked due to excessive roaming charges £639.00 When contacting Virgin told because we were close to Faroe Islands,
Tried to talk this through with Virgin, said your problem not ours, the thing is i never used my phone and do not know how roaming charges accommodated to this amount in a period of 2minits. I have a limit of £200 on my tariff so how come i have been charge this excessive amount.

Member

Kenneth -you must have been in “hopping ” range of a Faroe Islands cell-net receiver/transmitter . Cell-net phones look for the nearest available strong signal and that is why you connected with it. Your sim would be looked on as “foreign” to them . They are NOT part of the EU so don’t come under their telecommunications regulations ., they are self-governing and have their own rules in this regard .

Member

BEWARE: Montenegro is a European country using Euros for currency but NOT in the EU. £15 per MB !!!

Member
Richard says:
12 October 2017

Roaming charges in the EU are one thing but BEWARE if travelling by ferry!
I got stung with maritime roaming costs on the Dover to Calais crossing, 2 phones – 2 crossings – £40!!

No where on-board warned of this either.

Member

Yes, unfortunately it can be very expensive when that happens. I went to Rhodes recently and was warned by friends to be aware because it can connect to Turkey- I kept a very close eye on it for the whole holiday.

Member

Hi Richard, when did this happen? Roaming charges within the EU were dropped from July this year. If this happened recently then something probably went wrong with your bill. Let us know if we can help

Member
Keith Tilmouth says:
13 October 2017

Hi Guys, does anyone know where I can find the cost of data roaming charges per MB if I haven’t had a bundle or package for the USA. Taken my company phone and bill has come in at £210 for 3 days of 500mb. What to understand how this cost is made up.
Thanks.

Member

Hi Keith, you should find this information in the original contract, if you’re not able to access this I would advise contacting your network provider who should be able to help.

Member

Beware travelling even within the UK!!! WHICH? NEEDS TO CAMPAIGN FOR ACTION ON UK FERRY MOBILE CHARGES!!! – or at least warn people..
Travelling on the Stenaline ferry (between Cairnryan in Scotland & Belfast, N Ireland) now regularly sees Tesco Mobile (O2) trying to charge us “Region 2, 3, or 4” data rates (about £13/£14 for 45 minutes of data) – even tho we’re never outside UK waters!! Yes they now refund the additional monthly charge (for 3rd time).
Stenaline conditions state:- “The costs charged to you are not within Stena Line’s control. If your mobile phone picks up the MCP network you should receive an SMS informing you that you are now on the MCP network and that call rates are charged at International mobile phone rates which are considerably higher than your regular call costs, the details of which you should obtain from your own service provider” (no SMS ever received). … and
“Important information: EU Roaming fees – Whilst roaming charges when travelling in EU countries ended on 15 June 2017 the EU roaming rules only apply when you are connected to terrestrial mobile networks. (IS THIS CORRECT? ARE FERRIES EXEMPT?) The EU binding price cap does not apply if you use your mobile phone onboard via the ferry’s satellite connection and therefore the charges set by your network provider can be high”. Or it seems, even connecting to UK Tesco Mobile!! Their advice is now to switch mobile off when on ferry!!
Ofcom states “EU legislation requires that mobile operators take reasonable steps to protect their customers from paying inadvertent roaming charges”… but not, it seems to ferries operating within the UK!

Member
Stan Lynch says:
19 October 2017

My wife is with Plusnet Mobile and we have just been to Corfu which I am sure Which readers will know is a large Greek Island to the West of Greece. My wife’s phone kept connecting to an Albanian supplier, Albania is about 8km away across a busy seaway. She woke up with a message that she had run out of credit and so contacted Plusnet and asked them to correct the situation, they refused. What is the legal situation, we were 8km away from Albania according to Google, do we have to pay? It is only about £30 but it is annoying, because of the block, she couldn’t ring or text her elderly mother in France. I think there is still a lot of room for improvement on what is clearly a good thing,

Member

Stan-This is a bit of a problem due to how cell-net phones work. They connect to the nearest strongest signal as the whole purpose of them is to be mobile. For Albania you need to purchase an International sim card , if not the charges are high. This is a problem in many areas of Europe and at the moment there isn’t an answer unless you know you are near a country with high charges for not using their sims and turn off your mobile

Member
bishbut says:
20 October 2017

How did you manage before mobile phones ?? People just had too !!

Member
Sue turner says:
20 November 2017

Just wondered if you ended up
Paying or did u disbute it ?

Member
Sue turner says:
20 November 2017

My phone has apparently connected to Turkey whilst in Cyprus . My provider sent tx to say all use same as home . Returned to bill if £600. Can I dispute this?
Anyone been i the same situation
Any one with good out come
Have spoken to them and as gesture of good will they have taken £200 off

Member

Sue you are now the second person posting here with the same problem , same country , who was on a sailing trip . I checked before and , unless someone can prove otherwise, I am afraid you will have to pay the bill. I checked up their communications acts and they advise visitors to get a sim that will get cheap calls to their area before departure . Its caused by the natural operation of as cell-net phone to hook up with the strongest signal. But if anybody knows different ?? – be my guest I got the info from the official government website .

Member

Hi Sue,I’m sorry this has happened. Did you receive any text while abroad to confirm you were connected to Turkey? We have got some advice on what to do if your phone bill is too high, including complaints procedures and payment plans. You can find this information here – https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/my-phone-bill-is-too-high-how-do-i-challenge-it

I hope this helps