Already from April 2016, roaming has become even cheaper: operators will only be able to charge a small additional amount to domestic prices up to €0.05 per minute of call made, €0.02 per SMS sent, and €0.05 per MB of data (excl. VAT).
When you travel to a foreign country with your mobile phone, you are roaming - your mobile phone company and one in the foreign country work together to keep you connected, so you can make and receive mobile phone calls, write text messages, surf the Web and download content. These roaming charges will cease to exist in the EU as of 15 June 2017 when you travel abroad in the EU.
High premiums for roaming calls are an excessive irritant to business and leisure customers; they are a market distortion with no rational place in a single market – they teach users to fear their phones instead of using them. To tackle this issue, on 11 September 2013, the European Commission adopted a legislative package for a "Connected Continent: Building a Telecoms Single Market" aimed at building a connected, competitive continent and enabling sustainable digital jobs and industries.
In October 2015 the European Parliament's plenary voted in favour to end roaming charges when travelling in the EU by June 2017 (see details). Consumers will pay the same price for calls, texts and mobile data wherever they are travelling in the EU. Calling a friend when you are at home or in another EU country won't make a difference on your bill.
Already from April 2016, roaming has become cheaper: operators may only charge a small additional amount to domestic prices up to € 0.05 per minute of call made, and up to € 0.0114 per minute of call received, € 0.02 per SMS sent, and € 0.05 per MB of data (excl. VAT).
For the abolition of retail roaming charges to be sustainable throughout the EU, national wholesale roaming markets need to be competitive and to enable operators to offer retail roaming services without any charges in addition to the domestic price. Wholesale prices are those which operators charge each other for using their network. That is why the Roaming Regulation entrusted the Commission with the task of reviewing the wholesale roaming markets and making appropriate proposals before 15 June 2016, in order to enable the abolition of retail roaming charges from 15 June 2017. As a result of the various analyses, the Commission proposed on 15 June 2016 to set maximum regulated wholesale roaming charges at € 0.04/min, € 0.01/SMS and € 0.0085/MB. This is important to prepare the end of roaming charges for consumers travelling in the EU set for 15 June 2017.
The Roaming Regulation also foresees the possibility for an operator to apply a fair use policy to prevent abusive usage of roaming services at domestic price: for example, if the customer buys a SIM card in another EU country where domestic prices are lower to use it at home; or if the customer permanently stays abroad with a domestic subscription of his home country. As foreseen in the Roaming Regulation, the Commission proposes a fair use policy. An initial draft was published on 5.9.2016. The Commission services have, on the instruction of President Juncker, withdrawn the draft and are working on a new version.
The European Commission's first rules to address overcharging in roaming prices came in 2007 - the “Eurotariff” capped maximum prices for phone calls made and received while abroad. These maximum prices apply to all consumers, unless they opt for special packages offered by operators. These rules have since been periodically reviewed and reformed, with further reductions in price caps and automatic protections against data roaming bill shocks.
The results on roaming tariffs speak for themselves:
- Since 2007 the EU has achieved retail price reductions across calls of 92%
- Since 2009 the EU has achieved retail price reduction across SMS of 92%
- Data roaming is now up to 96% cheaper compared to 2012 when the first EU retail price cap became applicable on data roaming
- Between 2008 and 2015, the volume of the data roaming has been multiplied by more than 100