New EU mobile roaming retail prices and transparency measures

Mobile roaming is the ability to use your mobile phone while travelling. New rules were introduced 15 June 2017 in respect to travelling within the European Economic Area (EEA). It is important to remember that the new rules are for travel within European Union, Norway, Iceland and Lichtenstein and the cost of roaming (particularly data roaming) can be significantly higher outside the EEA. Therefore, consumers should be careful to check prices with their provider before travelling.

Below you will find information on key aspects of the new EU mobile roaming regulations

European Roaming Regulations

The European Commission (EC) first began to regulate roaming in 2007. It used an EC Regulation to make the roaming rules uniform throughout the EU. The EC has reviewed and amended the EC Regulation on a number of occasions, most recently on 29 November 2015. A key aim of the revised EC Regulation is to ensure that, from 15 June 2017, roaming customers will be charged the domestic retail price for using their mobile phone when travelling in the Europe (Roam Like At Home). This means that customers will be charged their “Domestic Price” when roaming in the EU. If a mobile customer has purchased bundled services (price plans that have specific call, text, and data allowances) any roaming usage is now deducted from that home bundle. This will be subject to a number of exemptions namely a fair usage policy and anti-abuse measures. In addition there are transparency measures, which continue to help roaming customers to manage their consumption and costs.

What is a Fair Usage Policy (“FUP”)?

Providers may apply a fair use policy in order to prevent abusive or out of the ordinary usage of regulated retail roaming services by roaming customers. When you roam like at home there are no volume restrictions for voice calls and SMS, but there are rules and limits for data usage charged at the domestic price, which are determined by the type of contract you have.

What is my Data Limit?

Each consumer should be aware of any data limits applicable when roaming and as there are different scenarios which involve different calculations to determine data limits. ComReg advises consumers to check with their Roaming Service Provider to confirm what their data allowance is in advance of travelling.

To prevent abuse or unusual usage of services beyond periodic travelling in the EEA, providers can apply control mechanisms based on indicators for example consumption and presence criteria, long inactivity of SIM card, subscription of multiple SIM cards by the same customer whilst roaming, organised resale, fair use concerning open bundles (examples provided) and pre-paid tariffs (examples provided)

Transparency SMS

Basic information:

Customers who are roaming will continue to get a personalised SMS Message on entry into another Member State – that sets out the domestic retail price that applies, information on any fair usage policy and any charges in excess of limits and surcharges, free of charge phone number for more information and the number for emergency services. The customer has the right to request and receive free of charge more detailed information from a service provider.

Notification on consumption within a FUP concerning a volume limit on data:

Customers will receive a notification when they have used the applicable fair use volume of data roaming services or any usage threshold applied

Alerting the customer of a pending surcharge:

The customer will receive an alert when the financial limit of €50 excl vat has been reached (per monthly billing period).

Financial or volume limit on data roaming consumption:

A consumer who data roams is automatically opted into a data price cap/alert of €61.50 (€50 ex VAT) unless they have requested not to receive the usage alert.

Contracts

Information on roaming is included in the details provided when a customer signs a contract for a mobile service. Check your contract as the main characteristics of the roaming service must be set out including the specific tariff plan/s and types of services offered, together with any restrictions imposed on the use of services e.g. how any fair use policy is applied by reference to the main pricing, volume or other parameters of the provided regulated retail roaming services concerned.

Are these new rules a change to my contract that allows me to exit?

No the new roaming rules do not result in the ability to withdraw from your contract. Where service providers make changes to their roaming tariffs and usage policies in order to comply with the requirements of this Regulation mobile customers do not have a right under national to withdraw from their contracts. The legal basis is set out in Recital 30 of Regulation (EU) 2015/2120 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2015.

Link to the roaming details provided by your Service Provider

Other Advice

Inadvertent roaming?

This is when the signal from a mobile phone is picked up by a different network without your knowledge. Before 15 June 2017 this could occur close to any international boundary however this is now changing and it is only those countries within the EEA who are next to a non EEA country in which this type of roaming will arise.

How can I avoid inadvertent roaming?

Disable ‘automatic network selection’ on your mobile handset. On your mobile phone, you can choose to either automatically select a network or manually choose which network to use. If you disable ‘automatic network selection’, your mobile phone can only connect to a different network if you choose to do so. You should refer to your handset user guide to find out how to change the setting from ‘automatic network selection’ to ‘manual network selection’. If you have a Smartphone, you should be aware that applications (Apps) may use data even when you are not interacting with the application. You can contact your network provider to find out information on how to switch on and off data on your handset (also to enquire if data settings reset automatically).

Liability for inadvertent roaming charges

If your phone is set to ‘automatic network selection’ and it does ‘inadvertently roam’, you must pay the resulting mobile bill.

Roaming on a ferry

Mobile network coverage only extends offshore for a limited period, and only becomes available when you near shore again. Standard charges apply close to your home network and normal roaming rates will begin to apply when you near your destination. Some ferries offer a satellite service in order to provide coverage throughout the journey. Users are informed of this service by a text message which also contains pricing information.

Data Usage Alert outside the EEA

Since 1 July 2012, consumers who travel outside the EEA also receive a data usage alert while travelling. If the operator is unable to send the alert due to the network provider in another country, you should receive an SMS from your operator advising you that the operator cannot apply the data usage alert in that country.