Mobile roaming charges across the European Union will be lifted from Thursday, June 15. Every existing or new contract that includes roaming services will change to “roam like at home” contract, according to the European Commission. New EU rules will cover data services, voice calls and SMS.
Starting on June 15, travelers can roam like at home in all 28 countries of the EU: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.
Roam like at home will be introduced in the countries of the European Economic Area: Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway shortly after 15 June.
The European Consumer Center of Greece recently presented the Commission’s answers to frequently asked questions by consumers regarding the issue:
1. Is it really true that I will not pay anything extra when I travel and use my smartphone in the EU?
Yes. Your communications (phone calls, SMS, data) made from another EU country will be covered in your national bundle: the minutes, SMS and gigabytes of data that you consume abroad in the EU will be charged or deducted from the volumes of your national tariff plan exactly as if you were at home (in the country where you live, work or study). Contrary to the past, you will not have to pay anything extra. No bill shock anymore. Whether you use your mobile phone while periodically abroad in the EU or in the country where you live will not make any difference. You will roam like at home.
2. Are there any exceptions or hidden rules to this new right I have?
You can Roam Like at Home whenever you are in an EU country other than the country where you actually live (your effective home). If you move to and establish a durable residence in another EU country, you will no longer be able to benefit from roam like at home offers from an operator in the country you came from. You will be able to roam like at home with a mobile subscription of your new country of residence when you travel abroad in the EU.
3. How long can I roam like at home when I am abroad?
The general rule is that as long as you spend more time at home than abroad, or you use your mobile phone more at home than abroad, you can roam at domestic prices when travelling wherever in the EU. This is considered a fair use of roaming services.
If this is not the case, your mobile operator may contact you. Operators can detect possible abuses based on the balance of roaming and domestic activity over a fourmonth period: if you spend a majority of your time abroad and consume more abroad than at home over the four months, the operator can ask you to clarify the situation within 14 days. If you continue roaming more than you are at home, your operator may start applying a small charge to your roaming consumption. This will be capped at 3.2 cents per minute of voice call and 1 cent per SMS. For data, the maximum surcharge will be €7.7 per GB (as of 15 June 2017), falling to €6 per GB (as of 1 January 2018), €4.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2019), €3.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2020), €3 per GB (as of 1 January 2021) and finally €2.5 per GB (as of 1 January 2022).
4. Are there any volume limits to calling, sending SMS and using mobile data at domestic price while I travel?
If at home you have unlimited calls and SMS, you will get unlimited calls and SMS when roaming in the EU.
5. Is roam like at home automatic or do I have to do something to activate it?
You do not need to set anything up. Your operator will automatically cease to apply the roaming charge when you roam abroad in the EU after 15 June 2017.
6. I never travel abroad in the EU. Will the new roaming rules have any impact on me?
No. If you do not travel abroad in the EU, nothing will change for you. You may receive a notification of changes in your contract regarding the new roaming rules, but if you do not travel abroad, you do not need to pay any particular attention to those changes. If, on this occasion, your operator notifies you of changes in any other conditions of your contract, you have the right to terminate your contract without penalty if you do not accept these changes.
7. Will I get notified on June 15? If so, how?
Yes. Your operator should inform you about the end of roaming charges and how your particular tariff will be affected (e.g. by the fair use policy), and your contract will be adjusted accordingly.
The public information concerning your particular tariff (e.g. on your operator’s website) will also be adapted as regards roaming. When you cross an EU border after 15 June 2017, you will continue to receive an SMS informing you that you are roaming. That SMS will remind you of any fair use policy on roaming applied by your operator.
8. What can I do if I go abroad and cannot use roam like at home and get charged extra?
You should first contest those extra charges with your operator, who should have a complaints procedure in place. If the operator persists, you should notify the relevant body in your country, usually your national telecoms regulator, who will settle the case.
9. If I travel, how much do I pay when I receive a call?
If you travel abroad in the EU after 15 June 2017: nothing – just as at home!
10. Can I use roam like at home on ships within the EU?
As long as you are directly connected to a terrestrial mobile network (e.g. on rivers, lakes or along the coast) yes – otherwise no. EU roaming rules apply only to terrestrial mobile networks. As soon as the services are provided through other types of radio networks, via satellite systems on board of ships or aeroplanes for instance, they are not subject to the binding price caps of the EU.
11. Is it still a good idea to take a temporary local SIM when travelling abroad for a long period (more than 2 weeks)?
For a few weeks, probably no. The roaming ‘fair use’ rules are designed for people ‘periodically travelling’ in the EU. Therefore, if you plan to stay several months abroad without interruption, it is a good idea to check the roam like at home fair use policy applied by your operator to decide what is best in your particular case.
12. I have unlimited voice calls and SMS at home. Do I get unlimited voice calls and SMS in roam like at home?
Yes. Any volume restrictions for voice calls and SMS while roaming are no longer allowed from 15 June 2017.
13. I have unlimited data at home. How do I know the volume of roam like at home data that I get?
If your national mobile bundle includes unlimited data, your operator must provide you with a large volume of roam like at home data depending on the price of your mobile bundle.
Your operator should clearly inform you of this roam like at home data allowance. In case you use more data while roaming than the data allowance foresees, you may have to pay a small charge (See also question 14).
If you want to check the operator’s calculation, here is how: the roaming data volume must be at least twice the volume obtained by dividing the price of your mobile bundle (excluding VAT) by €7.7. For your information, €7.7 is the maximum price that your operator has to pay the foreign operator for 1 GB of data when you are abroad in the EU during 2017. This means that you may get more roam like at home data than the volume your operator can purchase with your monthly subscription from the foreign operator whose network you are using abroad.
Example: At home, you have a mobile bundle including unlimited calls, SMS and data for €42 (€35 excluding 20% VAT). When travelling in the EU, you get roam like at home for unlimited calls and SMS, and at least 9.1 GB of data (2*(35 / 7.7) =9.1).
14. If I do exceed the limits of roam like at home, what are the extra costs my operator can charge me with?
Beyond roam like at home fair use policy, your operator may apply a small charge on roaming consumption:
3.2 cents per minute of voice call made (+VAT)
1 cent per SMS (+VAT)
€7.7 per GB of data (+VAT) (less than 1 cent per MB)
For data, this is 6.5 times less than today’s roaming charge and 26 times less than the charge billed in 2015. For calls made, this is 36% less than today’s charge and six times less than the charge in 2015. For SMS, this is 50% less than today’s charge and six times less than the charge in 2015.
15. I have a pre-paid card. Do I get roam like at home?
Yes. If you pay per unit, and your domestic unit price of data is less than €7.7 per GB, your operator may apply a roam like at home volume limit on data. That limit should be at least the volume obtained by dividing the remaining credit on your pre-paid card when you start using data roaming services (excluding VAT) by €7.7. For instance if you have €13 (€10.8 excluding a 20% VAT) left on your SIM card when starting roaming data, you will have at least 10.8/7.7=1.4 GB of roaming data. For your information, €7.7 is in 2017 the maximum price that your operator has to pay the foreign operator for 1 GB of data when you are abroad in the EU. This means that you get in Roam Like at Home exactly the volume of roaming data you have paid for in advance. For voice and SMS, you will pay exactly the same unit price as at home.