/ 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.

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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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!

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,


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