Roaming charges can be extortionate and mean you spend a lot of money while you’re away on business or on holiday, but that’s now all about to end. At least in Europe.
From today – that's June 15 – roaming charges will be banned by the European Union, meaning you won’t need to spend any extra when making calls, sending texts or using your mobile data while abroad.
You’ll instead be charged the same amount as you were when you’re at home.
This is in the aim to stop networks charging their customers huge amounts of money and should allow you to save some dough while you’re away on a trip around the European Union, but there are still some further things you should know.
What countries are included?
You need to be careful the country you’re visiting is included. The ban on roaming charges only affects the 28 countries in the EU, so if you’re visiting Switzerland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Andorra and many more, they may still have roaming charges in place.
Some networks are also including Turkey in the ban, which means you won't get charged extra there. But you shouldn’t assume that's the case and it’s worth checking with your network before you visit Turkey.
Don’t some networks already offer this?
Three has offered free roaming around the EU for a few years now, while Vodafone and EE have also offered it recently. All networks will now have to adhere to this though, so from today you should be covered.
Three continues to offer one of the best services of the major networks by giving you free access to the US, Australia and New Zealand among other locations through its Feel At Home service. You can see the full list of destinations covered by Three here (opens in new tab).
Vodafone will also continue to offer its roam-free service in a variety of locations outside of the EU such as Turkey, Albania, Canary Islands, Switzerland and many more. To see the full list of destinations included on Vodafone, try this link here (opens in new tab).
O2 hasn't offered a roaming deal in the past, but it now has a long list of countries with free roaming and it's not just limited to those in the EU. You can find a full list of the countries covered by O2 here (opens in new tab).
EE is including 48 locations from around Europe in its free roaming bands too and you can find the full list of countries covered here (opens in new tab). Other MVNOs will also have to abide by the rules as well, but it will be worth making sure your destination is covered before you head on holiday.
Currently none of the UK networks will allow you to tether other devices to your phone either without spending extra.
Can I use my phone as much as I want?
No - instead you'll be using your usual allowance of data, minutes and texts from your contract when roaming around Europe. So if you leave the UK without any data left on your monthly allowance, you will still be charged to use data on your phone, it just won't be as much as it was before.
You should continue to keep a close eye on your contract allowances and if you're on Pay As You Go it's worth making sure you're still topped up.
If you are on an unlimited internet deal, be sure to speak to your network about roaming as there may be fair use limits added in the future too.
What about countries outside of Europe?
Unless your deal specifically states it covers your non-Europe destination, it won't be covered by this ban. Your network can charge as much as it wants to during your trip.
In fact, it may even get more expensive to travel around countries that are not in Europe, as the government has announced plans for a 20% VAT charge on roaming costs.
There's no official start date for this yet, but it may come in very soon and is something worth keeping an eye on if you plan to visit countries outside Europe a lot.
- Not visiting the EU? Here's how to avoid roaming charges
Does this include calling my friends and family who are in Europe?
This doesn't necessarily cover calls and texts to those who are in Europe on holiday or live there at the moment, if you're phoning from the UK. Prices will vary depending on what network you are with and it's worth checking directly with your chosen network.
What happens after Brexit?
It’s currently unclear what will happen after the UK leaves the European Union in 2019.
Some have anticipated the EU roaming fee ban will continue for at least a few years until we officially leave the EU, and it may be that networks continue to adhere to the ban even after Brexit is finished.
Dan Dalton, a Member of the European Parliament who helped introduce the roaming charges ban, told Sky News (opens in new tab) the future is uncertain.
Dalton said, "This is an EU regulation so it's bound to being in the EU. If we remain in the single market or closely linked to the single market in this area, this will stay. If we're not in the single market, there will be a question."