Mobile users will pay exactly the same to talk, text or surf the web on their handsets in the EU as they do at home in the UK from 15 June 2017, after the European Parliament today approved plans to scrap roaming charges.
MEPs in the EU Parliament have today approved plans to ban roaming charges. This comes two years after the European Commission first laid down proposals for a 'single telecoms market' to take force by the end of 2015.
MEPs voted in favour of the original proposals in April 2014, but at a meeting in March this year, the EU Council – made up of ministers from EU governments – argued that mobile phone roaming charges should instead remain until 2018.
Three EU institutions – the Parliament, Commission and Council – need to agree in order for mobile roaming charges to be scrapped, and a "political agreement" was finally reached in June this year.
Today's vote, which was the final hurdle in passing the new rules, seals the deal to end roaming bills once and for all. It means mobile users travelling in the 28 EU member states, plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway from 15 June 2017, will pay the same price as at home, with no extra charges.
How much does data roaming cost now?
Mobile roaming costs in the EU have gradually come down since the introduction of the 'Eurotariff' in 2007, which capped the maximum prices that providers could charge.
The current caps took force on 1 July 2014 as outlined below, and new caps are planned to take effect from 30 April 2016.
Roaming price caps
|Current price cap (came into force from 1 July 2014)
|From 30 April 2016 (ii)
|€0.20 per megabyte
|Monthly data cap (i)
|€0.19 per minute
|€0.05 per minute
|€0.06 per text
|(i) Maximum charge per month for using data in the EU before it's cut off. Euro prices exclude VAT.(ii) Maximum additional price your provider can charge on top of your usual rates.
However, these caps don't apply elsewhere in the world, where mobile providers can charge what they like for calls, texts and data.
Cut mobile roaming costs
If you're heading abroad, here are our top tips for cutting roaming costs:
- Switch off data roaming. Turn it off before you leave the UK and keep it off. While it's on, some apps trigger data downloading, even when you're not browsing the web. If you're checking emails, don't download attachments as this can use a lot of data.
- Use wi-fi. If you've got a smartphone, use free wi-fi to access the internet and you won't be charged. Before you go, you can also download internet-to-phone calling systems including Skype or Rebtel, or Whatsapp for messaging, as if the person you're calling also has these apps, it's free to talk/message via wi-fi. Many hotels and hostels provide free wi-fi for customers.
- Get a special add-on to use abroad. Ring up and ask your provider if it has any special add-ons you can use to slash the cost of calls and data abroad. Some add-ons are free, others require a daily or monthly fee.
- Switch Sim cards. Mobile phone provider Three's Feel at Home feature allows contract and pay-as-you-go users to use their normal allowance of minutes, texts and data abroad in 18 different countries exactly as they would in the UK – and if you're not already a Three customer, there's a trick to get this for free.