EU roaming charges have been scrapped from today, enabling customers to use their mobile at no extra cost in all 28 destinations. It follows years of intense negotiations that eventually saw the European Parliament announce the decision in October 2015, with the charges to be abolished in this new landmark deal.
Holidaymakers will now be able to use their UK monthly allowances and roam free of charge
It was agreed that from April 2016, roaming charges would not exceed €0.05 for outgoing calls, €0.02 for every text message sent or €0.05 per megabyte of mobile internet use.
The ruling will not come into force in countries such as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Turkey, which are not part of the EU.
A ‘European success story’
In a joint statement, European Parliament president Antonio Tajani, Minister of Malta Joseph Muscat (on behalf of the Maltese Presidency of the Council of the EU) and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said: “The end of roaming charges is a true European success story.
“Over the last 10 years, our institutions have been working hard together to fix this market failure. Each time a European citizen crossed an EU border, be it for holidays, work, studies or just for a day, they had to worry about using their mobile phones and a high phone bill from the roaming charges when they came home. Roaming charges will now be a thing of the past.
“It has been a long time coming, with many actors involved. By working closely together, the European Union has delivered a concrete, positive result for European citizens. We are proud that the EU has put an end to very high roaming prices and thankful to those who showed the determination to overcome the many challenges and pursue this goal.
“At the same time, the EU has managed to find the right balance between the end of roaming charges and the need to keep domestic mobile packages competitive and attractive. Operators have had 2 years to prepare for the end of roaming charges, and we are confident that they will seize the opportunities the new rules bring to the benefit of their customers.”
Over the last few weeks, four of the UK’s major mobile operators – EE, O2, Vodafone and Three – as well as MVNOs such as Tesco Mobile and Sky Mobile, all removed their own roaming fees in advance of the upcoming law.
Three was the first to implement these changes in a number of countries with its Feel at Home package in 2013, followed by Vodafone, EE and O2 earlier this year.
According to recent research from price comparison website uSwitch.com, almost a quarter (24 percent) of mobile users have returned back to the UK from holiday with an average overspend of £52.
Forgetting to switch off data roaming (30 per cent) and mistakenly thinking a mobile device’s WiFi is on (27 per cent) were found to be the key drivers of bill shock.
Another key statistic from these findings was that 37 per cent of Brits thought there were already no charges for using their phone in other EU countries.
uSwitch Mobiles senior commercial manager Ernest Doku warned that consumers need to be mindful of this, especially with roaming charges outside of the EU incurring 20 per cent VAT on top of normal network rates from August 1.
He also warned against any potential impact from Brexit, with operators needing to be quick to broker deals in other countries ahead of their rivals.
“With 37 per cent of Brits incorrectly thinking there are already no charges for using their phone in other EU countries, this upcoming change is likely to be well received.
“With some providers such as roaming trailblazer Three already going over and above the 15 June legal requirements with their ‘Feel at Home’ tariffs or iD’s recently announced tariff revisions, those providers looking to stand out would do well to embrace a strategic push into non-EU destinations teamed with a concerted effort to make roaming more affordable regardless of destination – both would serve as a seriously competitive move in an industry where differentiation is key.
“As for the impact Brexit might have on roaming, this is still unclear, though any plans to revert back to a world of roaming at an extra charge would likely be unpalatable for consumers, and so seems an unlikely manoeuvre.
“The challenge for those providers who might want to steal a march will be in their ability to remain flexible in handling any changes resulting from Brexit. It’ll also come down to how quickly they can broker deals in other countries ahead of the rest. Either way, all signs point to worry-free global roaming becoming a new battleground – and potential point of confusion – amongst providers.”