Soon mobile users travelling to other countries in the EU will be able to call, text or use the internet without paying any extra charges after the European Council voted to impose caps on how much carriers can charge each other to allow users to roam.
“Today’s final vote in the Council clears the path for free roaming,” said Dr Emmanuel Mallia, the Maltese Minister for Competitiveness and Digital, Maritime and Services Economy. “When Europeans go on holiday this summer, they can enjoy the freedom of being able to stay in touch and use the internet as if they were at home. The EU is making our lives easier in very practical ways.”
The new protection will cover all 28 EU countries and also Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway shortly after 15 June.
While no extra charges will be imposed when users travel to a different country, the EU does not intend that users should shop around for cheapest plan around Europe and use them permanently in more expensive markets.
“Roam like at home” is meant to make communicating while travelling easier. It is not intended to allow permanent roaming where a customer would take out a subscription in the cheapest possible country and use it to roam in his home country. If you spend more time in the new market than the old over a 4 month period an operator may contact you to clarify the situation, and then impose charged of up to €7.7 per GB for not complying with the rules.
Special rules also apply to phone plans with unlimited data and pre-paid cards, but operators will have to inform users ahead of time of any restrictions, and the maximum additional data charge is capped at €7.70/GB + VAT; this will decline gradually to reach €2.50/GB as of 2022.
Users do not have to do anything to activate the new charging plans but users can elect to keep their old roaming plans if they feel they are more beneficial than the new arrangement (e.g. better deals for the rest of the world.)
The UK remains covered by the deal, but these details will likely be renegotiated when UK finally exits the EU.
Read the EU’s official FAQ here for more details.