Is roaming in the EU really free?

tourists

Yes, but there is a catch

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In September of 2016, an announcement was made about abolishing roaming charges across the EU by the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC).

This deal came into effect in June of 2017: SMS, phone calls and data charges will be the same as charges in users’ home countries (within the EU).

This is very good news for citizens of the EU. However, they should take into account that it is not really what it seems to be. There are limits and restrictions. Users should be aware of the following:

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1. Not all countries are part of this deal

According to the Independent, only 28 European territories have implemented the “Roam Like at Home” agreement. Other countries with serious economic issues will follow suite gradually and may take as long as 2 years to be part of the agreement.

Several operators in the EU are still allowed to charge roaming surcharges to avoid negative impact that comes from economic discrepancy in certain European territories.

This means that users still have a good chance of getting higher charges on their bills. So, be aware of that.

Also, Switzerland is not part of this deal.

catch

2. The catch: Fair use terms and conditions:

No, NOT that kinda catch…

This is where things get interesting, or disturbing – depends on how you see things (glass half empty or glass half full kinda person).

The statements addressing fair usage of data are meant to set a cap on how much data a person can use while abroad. In other words, there is a limit on your data usage. Several sources reported that beyond a “reasonable volume of data used”, users will have to pay surcharges that can be as high as USD$13.00 per GB.

PROBLEM: The reasonable volume is not standardized and subject to terms of contracts operators have with their users. This may vary from operator to another.

Keep in mind, this is for EU residents.

Also: NO PERMANENT ROAMING

Moreover, there are special limitations in countries like Bulgaria and Romania. These countries will be at a disadvantage if the free roaming rules apply.

Another part of the fair use conditions has to do with the time restriction. If a user spends more time abroad (within the EU designated territories) than they spend at their home country, operators will notify them and then charge them accordingly – roaming charges.

Time cap is about 4 months

The networks are obligated to notify the user every time the user crosses the borders.

spanish-dancer

3. What’s up with charges in Spain?

So, apparently, Spain lacks regulation in regards to making calls from Spain to other countries within the EU.

What does this mean?

The phrase “Roam Like at Home” isn’t quite what it is. Calls from Spain are cheaper within the EU. But does this apply for those who roam in Spain?

Here is a sample story from Europa Direct:

Jana lives in Slovakia and has a pre-paid card with €20 credit (including VAT) for her mobile phone, which covers calls, SMS and data services. When she goes on holiday to Spain, she has €12 (excluding VAT) credit left on her card. This means that during her holiday in Spain Jana can have a volume of data equal to the value of the remaining credit on her pre-paid card. She will get at least 1.5 GB of roaming data (€12/€7.70 = 1.5).


Global roaming solution: check out Flexiroaam Coverage


tourists

4. I am a non EU citizen, and coming to visit the EU. What’s my situation?

Here, things get complicated and tricky.

There is a mess that still needs to be cleared and uncertainty still remains high.

Some countries will try to implement the rule: Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein territory.

The matter is still unclear for the following territories: Switzerland, Monaco, Andorra and several Eastern European nations, as well as the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. These areas are not covered automatically by the agreement, as of now.

And if you are coming from a country out of Europe all together, that’s a whole different case. But in a nutshell, expect very expensive charges for roaming there.


Flexiroam data roaming solution: as low as 0.99 cents per day. Find out more


cruise-ships

5. What about Ferry and Cruise roaming?

The rule doesn’t apply for roaming on board ferries and cruise and charges are extremely high. Even WiFi on board is expensive.

6. What about the UK?

Since the UK plans to leave the EU and call it quits, the situation is still in muddy waters – metaphorically speaking, of course.

Some call for the fees to remain, others want to charge as they please, and there are mentions of restructuring mobile charges after the triggering of article 50. But no one knows yet.

railway-station

7. What about traveling outside of the EU?

The issue of Turkey remains one of much ambiguity. For EU citizens, they need to keep this in mind:

  • It is not part of the EU
  • Many EU citizens vacation in Turkey
  • Turkey uses the Euro as a secondary currency
  • Some network providers in Turkey do operate in the EU

Turkey still charges roaming to its visitors.

EU citizens traveling to Asia, North America, Africa, South America, and Australia should expect roaming charges, if they choose to roam and not acquire a suitable solution.


Sources:

  • The independent
  • LeNews.ch
  • European Commission
  • Android Authority.com
  • The Telegraph