EU mobile roaming retail prices and transparency measures

Mobile roaming is the ability to use your mobile phone while travelling. The roaming rules were introduced on 15 June 2017 for travel within the European Economic Area (EEA). The EEA includes any EU country plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.  It is important to remember that the rules are for travel within the EEA and the cost of roaming (particularly data roaming) can be significantly higher outside the EEA. Therefore, you should be careful to check prices with their provider before travelling.

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

European Roaming Regulations

The first Roaming Regulation was in 2007. Its purpose was to make roaming rules uniform throughout the EEA. The Regulation has been reviewed and amended on a number of occasions since, most recently on 29 November 2015. A key aim of the amended Regulation was to ensure that from 15 June 2017, roaming customers would be charged the domestic retail price for using their mobile phone when travelling in the EEA (Roam Like At Home). This means that customers will be charged their “Domestic Price” when roaming in the EEA. 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 usage and costs.

What countries belong to the EEA?

Countries that belong to the EEA include Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom (please see section on Brexit).

What is a Fair Usage Policy (FUP)?

Service providers may apply a fair use policy in order to prevent abusive or out of the ordinary usage of roaming services by roaming customers. When you roam in the EEA there are no volume restrictions for voice calls and SMS, but there are rules and limits for data usage which are determined by the type of contract or bundle service you have.

What is my Data Limit?

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

To prevent abuse or excessive usage of roaming services beyond periodic travelling in the EEA, service providers can apply control mechanisms based on certain situations, for example usage and presence criteria, long inactivity of SIM cards, subscription of multiple SIM cards by the same customer whilst roaming, organised resale, fair use of open bundles and pre-paid tariffs.

Transparency SMS

Basic information

Consumers who are roaming will continue to get a personalised SMS Message on entry into another EU 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, a free of charge phone number for more information and the number for emergency services.

Notification on usage of a Fair Usage Policy (FUP) volume limit on data:

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

Alerting you of a pending surcharge

You 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 specifically requested not to receive the usage alert.

When you get the alert, you will have to opt in by return text to continue to use the service.

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

No, the roaming rules do not mean that you can get out of your contract. Where service providers make changes to their roaming tariffs and usage policies in order to comply with the requirements of this Regulation, customers do not have a right 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, – the handset automatically looks for the network with the best signal and so this can happen without you being aware of it.  As the roam like at home (RLAH) only applies to countries within the EEA, roaming charges outside of the EEA can be much higher. Therefore, it is only those countries within the EEA which are next to a non EEA country in which this type of roaming will arise.

Note that Switzerland and Turkey are not in the EEA. Consumers travelling in border areas of neighbouring countries may find that their mobile signal hooks up to a Turkish or Swiss network. If this happens you will be charged non RLAH rates, which are generally significantly higher as any usage allowances you have as part of the RLAH, will not apply.

How can I avoid inadvertent roaming?

It is good to avoid inadvertent roaming as if your phone connects to a network in a non EEA country, the roam like at home (RLAH) rules will not apply and you will be charged much higher rates. So, to avoid this disable ‘automatic network selection’ on your mobile handset – on your mobile phone, you can choose for the phone to automatically select a network or you can 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’.

Apps and data usage

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. It is important to be aware that the roam like at home (RLAH) rates do not apply to these services.

Roaming on a plane

Roam like at home (RLAH) rules apply only to terrestrial mobile networks. As soon as the services are provided through other types of radio networks, via satellite systems on board aeroplanes for instance, they are not subject to the RLAH rates of the EU.

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 service provider is unable to send the alert due to the network provider in another country, you should receive an SMS from your service provider advising you that the service provider cannot apply the data usage alert in that country.

Brexit

For further information on the impact of Brexit on mobile roaming,  please see www.comreg.ie/consumer-information/brexit/.