Top 5 tips to avoid EU roaming confusion

The nostalgic aroma of summer began creeping in with the arrival of June, but along with it arose the nervous expectation of change and indeed, this summer brought the EU roaming regulation, the final product of more than a decade of EU wide negotiations.

Many people will have seen the social media campaigns by the European Commision promoting their new success. 'Roam like at home' stands for fearless and accessible communication abroad at all times, which means everything will be covered by your national bundle. No extra charges will be added merely for the fact that you are roaming abroad; charges will be only included if you surpass your operator’s limits that can also happen in your home country, therefore they are completely unrelated to traveling. You will be notified by any means and given the opportunity to make a choice concerning the use of these services.

Except, actually what the EU doesn’t talk about so loudly in its social media campaigns is that it has allowed regulators and therefore mobile operators to actually charge roaming fees in certain conditions: surcharges and fair use policies. If you look at the European Commision’s website they have provided some answers to the frequently asked questions but the list is quite long.

A couple of weeks have passed since the regulation was officially set in motion – although some operators began introducing new roaming tariffs as early as April – and according to social media and the responses I’ve been receiving, a great portion of the EU citizens seem to be confused about the new concept, fearing for the wellbeing of their finances. This was of course to be expected – horror stories about roaming fees have saturated the media for years. So here are our top 5 tips for roamers wanting to avoid confusion.

Top 5 tips to remember about EU roaming

Top 5 tips to remember about EU roaming.

1. Fair use policies impose time limits

Roaming on the whole is going to be zero charged, however, there are also some time-sensitive limits. You can spend a maximum of four months roaming abroad using your organic phone number, but on the occasion of exceeding this limit, you will be contacted by your operator and most likely submitted to a surcharge. So if you plan on staying in another EU country for more than 4 months, it would be better for you to purchase a local SIM card. Telecoms are working hard to detect abusers and neither they, or you, would be amused at this kind of interaction.

2. Data consumption is limited

Another understandable concern is data – we have become data-oriented consumers, with calls and SMS occupying less and less space on our phone bills. The regulation is constructed to accommodate SMS and calls abroad, and provide a comfortable, painless transition while traveling, which is already filled with unknown and sometimes overwhelming experiences. Data, even if you are on an unlimited plan, will be unfortunately limited abroad. Those limits depend entirely on the operator and on your home plan, but once exceeded, if you wish to continue data roaming, a maximum of 7.70 Euros + VAT per GB will be applied. But in the future and until 2022 these rates will also fall annually.

3. Surcharges may apply

In addition and most importantly to note is that because some countries charge so little to their subscribers at home, they cannot offer the same while roaming. Some EU countries charge 90% less than others in the EU for their home plans so offering these rates for roaming was never anticipated. These countries will make surcharges i.e. they will continue to charge roamers for data irrelevant of the regulation. This is allowed and between the mobile operator and the regulator to negotiate. So people need to check officially with the mobile operator especially during this transition period.

4. International calls do not count as roaming

One of the questions causing the most ruckus seems to be related to international calls. These new tariffs do not include international calls, meaning, a call directed to another EU country while you're within the borders of your own country is an international call, not a roaming call. So when you are actually roaming, there are still some charges related to calling internationally. Which makes sense because if you want to call the other side of the planet at home, you know it always costs more so it will also be the same when roaming.

5. Regulated fees do not require any activation

Mobile operators should’ve announced the regulation on June 15 via text message, but if you, by any chance, have failed to receive an SMS then it would be best to contact your operator and ask. The regulation does not require any activation, but when in doubt, it would not hurt to consult with your MNO of choice. The regulation applies to those who have pre-paid cards as well.

The roaming regulation covers the 28 EU Member states plus Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland but you will still pay roaming charges while travelling outside this zone, or coming into these countries if you are a resident outside of the EU. Goodspeed however covers the world and follows the same principles of transparency and easy-to-follow roaming you find in the EU regulation.

- Hanne @Uros