The end of holiday bill shock: Using your mobile phone in the EU will cost no more than at home as roaming fees are scrapped
- Phone users on contract will be able to use their monthly allowance abroad
- Cost of calls, texts and data in the EU will drop in 2016 and disappear in 2017
- Move will boost businesses offering services to people travelling abroad
- Roaming will still apply outside the EU
Britons travelling abroad in the EU will no longer face extra charges to use their mobile phones, following a ground-breaking deal today.
All mobile phone users throughout the EU will be able to make calls, send text messages and go online wherever they are without facing extra charges.
Anyone on a phone contract with a monthly allowance for texts, minutes or data will be able to use their plan even while they are travelling.
It means Britons will be able to phone friends and family while travelling, send pictures and update their social media without paying more than they would at home.
The new rules will also put an end to 'bill shock' suffered for years by unsuspecting mobile phone users who upload pictures or download content abroad without realising the scale of the roaming fees they will be landed with when they get home.
The changes follow months of negotiations by the European Commission, which has been thrashing out a Digital Single Market deal with countries and phone providers.
HOW THIS IS MONEY CAN HELP
European negotiators have also reached an agreement on so-called net neutrality rules, which will ban internet providers from blocking or slowing down access to particular content, services or applications.
At the moment, providers can treat different websites differently, depending on the fee they pay.
For example, access to a start-up website could be slowed down to make way for bigger companies.
From June 2017, all internet traffic will be treated equally, subject to strict and clearly identified public-interest exceptions such as network security or combating child pornography.
Although phone users will have to wait until June 2017 for free roaming to kick in, charges will already become cheaper from April next year.
From this time, operators will only be able to charge a small additional amount to phone charges for those travelling out of their home country.
These prices are an extra 3p per minute for phone calls, 1p per text message sent and 3p per MB of data, excluding VAT.
At the moment, millions of mobile phone users switch off their handsets when they travel abroad to avoid risking eye-watering bills when they get home.
An end to bill shock: Holidaymakers in the EU will pay no more for using their phones while they're away.
The European Commission believes that if charges are no higher than at home, travellers will not be afraid to use their phones abroad, which will open up opportunities for online businesses and start-ups offers services to consumers when they travel.
Andrus Ansip, the European Commission's vice-president for the Digital Single Market, said: 'Europeans have been calling and waiting for the end of roaming charges as well as for net neutrality rules. They have been heard.
'We still have a lot of work ahead of us to create a Digital Single Market. Our plans to make it happen were fully endorsed by heads of state and government last week, and we should move faster than ever on this.'
Gunther H Oettinger, commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society, added: 'I welcome today's crucial agreement to finally end roaming charges and establish pragmatic net neutrality rules throughout the EU.
'Both are essential for consumers and businesses in today's European digital economy and society.
'We will build on these important foundations in our forthcoming review of the EU's telecoms legislation.'
Following today's agreement, the rules will have to be formally approved by the European Parliament and the Council.
The new rules will only apply within the EU - roaming charges in other countries often remain very high - sometimes up to £8 per MB of data used.
WHAT WILL THE NEW CHANGES MEAN FOR USING A PHONE IN THE EU?
How much will I pay to use my phone abroad?
You’ll pay whatever you’d pay if you were in the UK. If you opt for pay as you go, you will be billed the usual rate for minutes, texts and data. If you have a monthly contract, you should be able to use your usual allowance wherever you are in the EU.
Does this mean I can take out a cheaper phone plan from another EU country?
The rules prevent this, unfortunately, so you cannot buy a SIM card in another EU country where domestic prices are lower and use it at home.
There is a ‘fair usage’ safeguard and once this limit is reached, a small fee can be charged.
What happens until 2017?
Roaming charges have been going down every year since 2007.
They are currently capped at a rate that came into effect in July 2014: €0.19 per minute for calls, €0.06 per SMS sent, and €0.20 per MB of data, excluding VAT.
In April next year, prices will be even cheaper. Operators will only be able to charge a small sum for roaming on top of domestic prices: up to €0.05 per minute for calls, €0.02 per SMS sent, and €0.05 per MB of data, excluding VAT.
Why do we have to wait until 2017?
The EU says there’s a fair amount to do in order to make the changes sustainable, including thoroughly reviewing the price that operators charge to use each other’s networks.
What about when I use my phone in countries outside the EU?
Roaming charges outside the EU will not be affected by the new proposals. Therefore it will still be possible to run up huge phone bills when using your handset in other countries so it is always worth checking the roaming charges of your provider before using your phone.