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Limits for international roaming rates regulated

Friday, November 15, 2013

When you go on a holiday, a very unpleasant surprise usually awaits you upon your return home. Your phone bill has gone through the roof, without you noticing it. The reason may be that you made or received a phone call from back home, you sent a few text messages, or you forgot to turn off your data roaming on your smartphone. This can lead to an astronomical bill, so checking what rates are charged abroad before you travel may be a good idea. But there are also European rules in place that determine what the limit is for data use abroad. 

Switching off data roaming

Unless you manually switch off data roaming before you leave to go on your holiday, your devices can download data during your time abroad without you even noticing it, even if you're not surfing the web or emailing. Roaming is the name for the service that allows customers to use their mobile phone or other mobile device outside the geographical coverage of their phone and data provider. When you are abroad and your phone, tablet or laptop uses the local data network to establish a connection, this is called international roaming. But when you use your device in an EU country, to phone, text or surf, there's a limit to how much your network operator can charge you.

European roaming rates

The 'Eurotariff' for roaming applies to the entire EU and entails rates for mobile services being regulated in order to avoid unreasonable rates being charged to citizens. The rates for using your phone in the European Union have been capped by EU regulation by introducing uniform European rates ('Eurotariffs'). These rates are available in most European countries, except for Switzerland and Turkey, so keep in mind that in these countries, the old higher rates may apply.

Lowered rates for phone calls

EU regulation means the rates for telephone calls for those travelling within Europe will be lowered from the current 24 cents per minute to 19 cents in 2014. The limits for phone, text and web rates (data use) are:

1 July 2012

1 July 2013

1 July 2014

Outgoing voice calls (per minute)




Incoming voice calls (per minute)




Outgoing text messages (per SMS message)




Online (downloading data, per MB*​​)




* Rates excluding VAT; The tariff is per Megabyte to download data or browse the internet whilst travelling abroad (charged per Kilobyte used).

Rate limits apply to everyone

These limits apply to everyone, with the exception of special rates that apply for specific services or deals. Of course, your operator is free to offer cheaper rates, so it can be worth the trouble to look out for special deals. The proposal for roaming rates would only apply to phone calls and not data, which is often the most costly roaming service.

If you think your service provider has breached your rights as regards these prices and conditions for roaming services you should either:

  • Contact the service provider/vendor pointing out your rights and their obligations and ask them to solve the problem before you're forced to take the matter further.

  • And if you're not satisfied with your provider's response, you can contact the relevant national regulatory authorities. They may have the power to resolve the dispute. In many cases, they have set up special procedures and sort things out fairly and quickly. You can submit complaints to them about terms & conditions, quality of service, access to networks and services, and roaming services.

The European Commission plans to ban all incoming call charges while travelling in another EU country from 1 July 2014. Charges for calls between mobile phones in the EU will be capped at not be more than 0.19 euros per minute and the cost of cross-border phone calls in Europe will be capped at the price of a long-distance domestic call. The proposals must be approved by the 28 EU member states and the European parliament before they can be come into force.

Written by: Team