Europe mostly ends mobile roaming fees from today

Europeans traveling through the 28 Member State bloc are now able to use their mobile devices more freely, thanks to a top level abolition of mobile roaming charges across the region.

In a joint statement yesterday from the Commission, European parliament and Council, the move is described as “a concrete, positive result for European citizens”.

There are limits, however, with a fair use policy to avoid abuse from so-called permanent roamers; and fees still possible (albeit capped) for very inexpensive plans. Unlimited data will also not necessarily carry over when a subscriber is using their device in another EU country.

But for average mobile users traveling across the EU there shouldn’t be any extra to pay than their normal tariff incurs when they’re at home. (The EC has an FAQ on the detail of the policy here.)

Nor should European carriers be seeking to put up their domestic tariffs on account of roaming fees going away, although we’ll have to wait and see how that plays out.

Abolishing roaming fees, which, in years past, could be eye-wateringly expensive and presented an obvious disincentive for consumers to make use of digital services while traveling across the region for work or holiday, has been a decade-long project for the EC — and is part of its wider Digital Single Market initiative to raise competitiveness and lower barriers to doing digital business across the region.

The last hurdle to today’s move was passed back in April when agreement was reached among the three European institutions on wholesale price caps that limit what operators can charge each other for carrying roamers’ traffic on their networks.

“We are proud that the EU has put an end to very high roaming prices and thankful to those who showed the determination to overcome the many challenges and pursue this goal,” said senior representatives of the three European institutions in their joint statement on today’s move.

“At the same time, the EU has managed to find the right balance between the end of roaming charges and the need to keep domestic mobile packages competitive and attractive. Operators have had 2 years to prepare for the end of roaming charges, and we are confident that they will seize the opportunities the new rules bring to the benefit of their customers.”

The 28 EU countries (at least currently) are: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal,Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

For UK citizens there remains the question of whether Brexit — i.e. the vote for the country to leave the bloc — will mean the return of mobile roaming fees when the UK’s EU exit actually takes places (the clock is ticking on a two-year exit process, which began in March).

Whether roaming fees will return for Brits remains to be seen — it’s just another unknown of the Brexit process. But in the meanwhile UK mobile users also get to hang up on EU roaming fees.