EU mobile phone roaming charges end today

15 June 2017, 13:21   By Samantha Smith

THE European Union have officially scrapped mobile phone roaming charges, allowing people to use their phones in foreign European nations without incurring any additional cost.

european union flags
Credit: jorisvo/

As of today, the EU's "Roam Like at Home" regulation means that travellers moving from one EU country to another will no longer be subject to roaming charges, which in the past often resulted in tourists coming back from holiday with hefty phone bills.

Most UK mobile operators had already begun ending such charges in anticipation of the ban, making it highly unlikely that customers will experience any lag between the legal and actual removal of roaming charges.

However, there are a number of important exceptions they need to remain aware of, including the fact that going over data allowances would still be charged as normal.

A brief history lesson

Related news
EE fined for overbilling roamers
Operators say no to UK roaming
EU data roaming rises by 1,500%
Which networks do roaming best?

The complete removal of EU mobile roaming charges has been a long time in the making, with the first salvo in the war against them being the capping of data roaming charges in 2010.

Since then, increasingly substantial caps had been introduced at regular intervals, with another data cap arriving in 2012, followed in 2015 by the outlining of plans to abolish roaming charges for calls and texts as well as data.

It was initially uncertain as to whether the EU would go so far as stop roaming charges completely, with the European Commission backtracking at certain points in the face of opposition from the mobile industry.

However, partly under the strength of the Commission's plans to create a "Digital Single Market", the EU was eventually able to press ahead with their "Roam Like at Home" aim, achieving a transitional goal in 2016 in the form of limiting roaming charges to €0.05 for every minute of calls and €0.02 for every text.

The end of roaming charges is at the foundation of the EU's Digital Single Market and is another step towards building a united and sustainable European digital society, accessible for all our citizens.
Jean-Claude Juncker, Joseph Muscat, and Antonio Tajani, EU

And now, after much negotiation over fair use policies and wholesale caps, the complete eradication of roaming charges has finally been realised, much to the delight of EU officials.

Speaking of the achievement, the separate heads of the three main EU institutions had the following to say: "The European Union is about bringing people together and making their lives easier. The end of roaming charges is a true European success story".

Going further, Jean-Claude Juncker, Joseph Muscat, and Antonio Tajani jointly added, "From now on, citizens who travel within the EU will be able to call, text and connect on their mobile devices at the same price as they pay at home. Eliminating roaming charges is one of the greatest and most tangible successes of the EU".

Stable links

Yet as much as the elimination of roaming charges testifies to what the EU can achieve, mobile customers should be wary of several important details.

For one, the removal of roaming charges is not unconditional. As outlined in the fair use policy, for a customer to use a SIM card of a particular EU nation in other member states, they would have to have significant ties to that nation (i.e. they'd have to work, study, or reside in that nation).

Similarly, even if a customer has "stable links" to the nation of the SIM they're using, their operator could question or revoke their "Roam like at Home" privileges, especially if it turns out they're using this SIM more in a nation other than in the one in which it was purchased.

Added to this, the ban on roaming charges doesn't exempt customers from certain other charges. For example, calling another EU nation from the UK will still be charged at the relevant international rate.

Likewise, a customer's UK mobile operator will still charge them at the usual rate if they exceed their various call and text allowances.

No unlimited data

And when it comes to data, things get a little trickier, since those with contracts normally supplying unlimited data will not in fact have unlimited data when roaming in the EU.

When roaming, they'll be given a data allowance based on the amount they pay each month for their phone contract. If they exceed this allowance they will actually be hit with roaming charges, which will be limited according to the wholesale cap.

The EU state in an FAQ that "the roaming data [allowance] must be at least twice the [allowance] obtained by dividing the price of your mobile bundle (excluding VAT) by €7.7 [£6.77]".

For example, assuming that a customer pays £28 (not including VAT) every month for their unlimited data allowance. Dividing this by £6.77 equals roughly 4.14, which multiplied by 2 equals 8.18.

As such, a UK mobile customer will be able to use approximately 8.18GB of data without being subject to any roaming charges. If they exceed this limit, then they'll be charged for the excess according to the wholesale cap, which is currently set at €7.7 for 1GB of data.

Given this exception to the EU's "Roam like at Home" achievement, customers would do very well to be wary of using more data than they're allowed.

Yet once again, all this explanation may turn out to be moot, since depending on how post-Brexit Britain takes shape, roaming charges may be introduced yet again in the not-too distant future.

Want the best deal on a new handset?

independent comparison

We are independent of all of the products and services we compare.

fair comparison

We order our comparison tables by price or feature and never by referral revenue.

charity donations

We donate at least 5% of our profits to charity, and we aim to be climate positive.

Get insider tips and the latest offers in our newsletter