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Roaming Charges in the EU: Rules and Fair Use Policy
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The EU’s “Roam like at home” rule has made it more affordable for EU citizens to text, make calls and use data to and from any country member of the Union. But this very advantageous rule comes with its limits and conditions that one should be aware of, so as to stay compliant with the Fair Use Policy and not end up paying extortionate fees as a result. All the details about roaming in the EU can be found below.
The end of roaming charges in Europe since 2017
Following a vote by the European Parliament in 2017, roaming charges across the EU were scrapped and a now a matter of the past, a rule also known as Roam like at home.
This means that for all EU citizens,
- received and made calls
- received and sent texts
- use of data roaming
will not come at any extra cost when travelling within the 28 countries of the European Union, as well as in Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein (thanks to an agreement with the European Economic Area).
Make sure to check data roaming charges when travelling to other non-EU European countries, as here you could end up paying a lot more than where the Roam like a home rule applies. This is namely in the cases of Andorra, Albania, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the Vatican City.
What happens is that your provider will treat your consumption within the EU as part of your domestic phone deal, and will charge you at the normal rate agreed to in your contract. Any mobile phone plan signed within the EU, including data roaming, is thus automatically a “Roam like at home” plan. So, if you sign up for a phone plan in France, you won’t have to worry about paying any extra fees during your next holiday in Italy or your next trip back home to the UK for instance.
How about Brexit?As of 2018, the “Roam like at home” policy still applies as per normal to the UK. This might well change once the UK officially leave the European Union in 2019, we will have to see what happens thereafter, whether an agreement on preferential rates are maintained, or is fees will increase significantly.
Roaming in Europe and Fair Use Policy
This said, the “Roam like at home” is only intended to be used occasionally, for example when travelling or on a business trip; it is not supposed to be used as permanent roaming. The general rule is to make sure to use more of your phone data while in your home country that when abroad; something known as the Fair Use Policy. If you go overboard, if for instance you move to study abroad and keep using your domestic plan as usual for months at a time, then you will eventually get charged extra and the fee to pay may get very expensive.
You will get a text from your provider whenever you enter a different EU country, to remind you of this.
Roam like at home with a prepaid SIM
Roam like at home will work under a prepaid SIM contract. This said, if you pay per unit of data for your domestic plan and that one unit of data is under €6/GB, your domestic phone provider can apply a volume limit the the Roam like a home rule. If so, this limit should be equal or superior to the data volume obtained by dividing your remaining credit by €6 once you start using roaming abroad. You will still get the same amount of data that you paid for and you can still also put more credit on your phone while travelling, if needed.
Roam like at home with a limited data plan
Under a limited data plan, you be able to use your credit at no extra cost whilst travelling, your regular domestic allowance will be the limit to how much data you can use when travelling in the EU and if you wish to call a French number while away. But once the domestic allowance is exceeded, you will be charged extra fees (which are capped by the European Union at €6/GB of data, €0.32/min fo calls and €0.01/SMS).
However, in the case of very cheap limited data bundles (fixed at under €3 per GB), the fair use limit on data applied by your domestic provider might be set lower.
Whatever scenario, your phone plan provider will inform you about this limit and will notify you once you exceed your allowance. You will still be able to roam after this, but will have a surcharge to pay.
Roam like at home with an unlimited data plan
If you own a French unlimited data plan, you will be able to enjoy considerable amounts of data across the EU, but it is important that there will be a set limit, that will depend on how expensive your mobile plan costs.
Just like with limited phone plans, your operator will let you know what your exact Roam like at home allowance is, and will have to notify you when you go over the limit. You will still be able to roam after this, but will have a surcharge to pay.
What happens if I go overboard?
Beware of using the Roam like at home system excessively. If over a 4-month period, you spend more time and more allowance in another EU country, you may get contacted by your domestic provider, who can detect this behaviour. They may ask you to pay an extra fee (within the capped charge limits set by the European Commission) and give you 14 days to clarify your situation. You will still be able to roam abroad beyond this point, though, but at a very high cost.
The European Commission has set capped prices that operators can charge once a person goes passed the fair policy: €0.32/minute, €0.01/SMS, and €6/GB as of today. Prices for data will be lowered overtime, as follows: €4.5/GB on January 1st, 2019, €3.5/GB on January 1st, 2020, €3/GB on January 1st, 2021, and finally €2.5/GB on January 1st 2022.
The Roam at home rule and particular cases
Using phone allowance to and from non-EU countries
The Roam at home rule will not apply for data roaming, calls and texts to or from a non-EU country. You should make sure to find out in advance how much using your phone abroad will cost in these conditions, as it might be expensive. If so, you may be better off sticking to using WiFi, or for looking into international SIM cards.
Roaming charges while at sea
Beware of charges when at sea, during a cruise in Europe for instance. Indeed, it is most likely that your phone will be unable to pick up 3G or 4G signal and will instead switch to satellite signal instead, which does not fall under the EU Roam at home agreement and will very certainly be extremely costly.
While working as a cross border
As a cross border worker, you can decide which country you want your phone contract to be issued from, depending on what works out best for you. As long as you cross back into your phone plan country on a regular basis, even just a few hours per day, you won’t be considered as roaming and will be charged your regular rate.
Complaints Procedure: What to do if you get overcharged in Europe
If you ever feel like you have been unfairly charged more than you should have while using your phone allowance within the EU, the first thing to do is to contact your domestic phone plan provider to enquire about the amount you’ve been charged. If needed, you can back up your claim by using the provider’s complaint procedure.
In the absence of a satisfactory outcome, you can take your complaint to the higher level and directly get in contact with the national telecom regulatory authorities relevant to your country who will take charge of resolving your case.