/ Travel & Leisure

Will you benefit from the ban on EU mobile roaming charges?

Mobile phone holiday

A ban on mobile roaming charges in the EU comes into force on 15 June. The new ‘Roam at Home’ rules should bring savings for consumers and businesses alike. But it’s not quite a blanket ban. So will you benefit from the new rules?

Some of us use our holidays as an opportunity for a digital detox when phones will remain switched off.Others find themselves a comfy spot in the hotel lobby to log-in to the free wi-fi and plot out the next day of activities.

Whatever your preference, it’s certainly welcome news that from Thursday you’ll be able to make calls, texts and get online on your mobile phone while in the EU and will be charged exactly the same price as when you’re at home.

But, before you celebrate the end of holiday bill shock, there are exceptions to the rules that are worth knowing about.

Roaming charges

*Warning* the ban on roaming charges in the EU doesn’t mean completely free roaming.

While this EU regulation says that you can’t be charged more for using data, minutes and texts, if you go over your usual monthly phone bundle, for any of these items, you’ll be hit with the same charges as you would be at home.

And the chances are that when you’re travelling around on your holidays – whether that’s scoping out restaurants, mapping routes or calling hotels and car hire firms – you’re more likely to reach or exceed those limits. Those out-of-bundle charges can come with a bit of a bite too and vary across mobile phone providers.

Interestingly, despite being in the EU while in the UK you’re not technically roaming… so for those of you who might have friends and family living elsewhere in the EU, it’s worth knowing that calls and texts sent from the UK to EU mobiles will incur additional charges. Calling Spain from the UK, for example, can cost 9p with Giffgaff, but £1.50 per minute with O2.

We also found that mobile providers include different countries in their roaming territories and this can vary depending on whether you’re pay-as-you-go or pay monthly.

For example, Vodafone includes Turkey as a roaming territory, but Turkey isn’t in the EU. Also, if you’re an O2 pay as you go customer you’ll continue to be charged in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Monaco and Switzerland whereas O2 pay monthly customers won’t.

Holiday plans

So, if you plan to use your mobile phone while on holiday this year it’s important to check your tariff with your provider before you go to avoid unexpected charges.

These new roaming rules will apply to the UK for the duration of our EU membership. But, nobody wants to be in the situation where for next couple of years we can roam with our mobiles, posting pictures on Instagram or Facebook and texting our friends while on holiday, and then find that we go back to a scenario where we’re back to having bigger phone bills. That’s why we want the government to fight for this in Brexit negotiations.

Should a ban on EU mobile roaming charges be maintained as part of the government's Brexit negotiations?

Yes (92%, 1,395 Votes)

Not sure (4%, 65 Votes)

No (4%, 63 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,523

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In the meantime, I still plan to use my holidays as an excuse for a digital detox (sorry Which? Convo community). However, these changes will certainly be helpful next time I’m away – whether that’s to call the hotel, send a photo to friends and family or simply to check in on the weather 🙂

Have you experienced bill shock after returning from a holiday? Do you think you’ll benefit from free EU mobile roaming? Or do you think you’ll be sticking to the free hotel wi-fi?


From one of the links:
What about calling the EU from the UK?
Despite being in the EU, you aren’t technically roaming while you’re in the UK, which means providers are free to charge what they like for calls made to EU nations.

Can anyone explain what the significance of this is likely to be?

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I see. Thanks Duncan. Here’s another question, if I may. What happens if you call a mobile number from a mobile, unaware that the user is away on their holidays? I tend to call landlines when keeping up with friends but an increasing number of the people I know have ditched their landline phone.

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Thanks again. I have been told this before but have always been wary. No doubt this is why friends are keen for me to use Skype or WhatsApp when they are abroad.

Ian says:
26 June 2017

The simple rule for telephone call costs is that the caller pays for a call based on the number that was dialled.

If it is a mobile number and the owner of that number takes their mobile phone to a different location, this has absolutely no effect on what the caller pays.

Additionally, if the owner of a landline or mobile number decides to forward calls onwards to a different number, they pay the additional charges for that.

The only time that the caller pays additional charges to pay for the call-forwarding is when it is a premium rate number starting 070, 084, 087, 090, 091, 098 or 118. Except for numbers starting 070, the additional charge is declared as the Service Charge.

“But, nobody wants to be in the situation where for next couple of years we can roam with our mobiles, posting pictures on Instagram or Facebook and texting our friends while on holiday, and then find that we go back to a scenario where we’re back to having bigger phone bills.” Nobody, apart from the 52% who voted for Brexit, who didn’t mind/care/begin to think about it among many other things that really should have dawned on them/other?

They seem to have problems too in other parts of the EU. My mum and my sister both stay in France and have French mobile numbers. My mum’s contract (blanket Orange pay monthly contract for broadband, wifi, landline, mobile) allows her to communicate with me (British number) via eg WhatsApp, whereas my sister’s pay monthly contract doesn’t. She can receive my messages but can’t reply. I don’t see this improving when/if (can’t help but hope we don’t until we do) we come out of the EU.

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As I understand it this comes under an EU regulation, not a directive, so it has not been incorporated into UK law and it would be for a future UK government to decide whether to have the EU price restrictions on roaming or not after the UK leaves the EU. This only applies to travellers and not to residents phoning from their own countries who will still be subject to the existing charging regime of their service provider.

It would not surprise me if the UK government refused to legislate for the new roaming provisions after we leave the EU, and why shouldn’t it? As Sophie says, this is an adverse consequence of Brexit that people were presumed to have taken into account when deciding to quit. People will no doubt deny it, but warnings were out there, and everybody knew that we could not cherry-pick the bits of the EU that we liked and discard the rest. It could be that roaming charges, or the absence of them, would be a competitive part of the tariffs offered by the different service providers and that no government action is required.

It looks like I have gone from being a 65% Remainer twelve months ago to a hard Brexiteer today now that the die has been cast.

Ian says:
30 June 2017

The UK cannot unilaterally set roaming rates as it has no power to tell EU mobile providers what to charge UK providers when UK citizens use those foreign mobile networks.

Underlying the retail charges are the wholesale rates that mobile providers charge each other when accommodating users from another country on their mobile network.

Under the current arrangements, UK providers charge foreign providers low rates when their customers come to the UK and foreign providers charge UK providers low rates when UK users use foreign networks.

Once the UK is out of the EU there would be no applicable EU regulation covering these transactions. For “roam like home” coverage to continue, a new agreement would have to be struck between EU countries and the UK, replicating the provisions of the original EU regulation.

It’s an odd article. The summary seems to be ‘read the Ts and Cs’. And if you and the family at home use Apple, then Facetime video and audio costs nothing so along as you have WiFi.

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Postcards and stamps are still quite cheap on the Continent.

I remember when you could post a card in a morning and it would be delivered locally in the lunchtime post.

When we moved to this house I found that some posting boxes in our area have their only collection at 09:00 [07:30 on Saturdays]. I assumed that was to enable same day delivery in the sorting office catchment area as our only delivery is usually around 14:00. Unfortunately it still takes two days to arrive. All the locally-posted mail for local delivery goes 30 miles to Norwich and back for sorting and batching into the postmen’s and womens ‘walks’ [except they drive a van]. In the first year of our life in the new home the Royal Mail would only deliver twice a week because they said there was not enough mail for the area to justify additional rounds. Following pressure from a local resident – whose identity escapes me at the moment – normal service was introduced and we now get cards from friends and relatives on holiday before they have returned home.

If it can cost Upton £1.50 to call Spain from the UK, what will it cost to call a Spanish number while roaming in Spain?

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I understand that (I am in Spain and have both a Spanish and my UK phones), my point was under the new roaming rules I can use my UK phone “as if I was at home” but does this mean a local call (Spain to Spain) will be charged at the UK rate for a local call or is it an International call “as if I was at home phoning Spain”?

The latter, Ben. An international call-charge but without the ‘roaming’ charge.

John says:
19 June 2017

As a Pay as You Go user, I have been paying only 4p in EU as opposed to my normal 12p in the UK. I expect that I will now have to pay 12p. Is that correct?

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Ian says:
30 June 2017

If you are paying 12p per minute while in the UK, you are not on a particularly good deal – a rubbish deal in the UK now becomes a rubbish deal throughout the EU.

The cheapest pay-as-you go offers are either 3p per minute or a bundle containing hundreds of minutes and texts for a fiver. For around £15, most pay-as-you-go providers offer unlimited calls and texts for one month.

Virgin Mobile are maintaining (wrongly) that the abolition of EU roaming charges does not apply to PAYG phones.