Summer is around the corner and many people will be glad to hear that the cost of using a mobile phone in countries across the EU is to become cheaper again from 30th April 2016 when an interim cap on charges is introduced.  This step forms part of the overall agreement between the European Commission and the European Parliament and Council that will see a complete end to roaming charges by 15th June 2017.  This will mean that consumers and businesses alike will not be penalised with higher charges when using their mobile phones in other EU countries.

The final phasing out of the charges will begin from April 2016 when operators will only be able to charge a small additional amount to domestic prices as follows;

  • Up to €0.05 extra per minute for calls made
  • Up to €0.02 extra per SMS sent
  • Up to €0.05 extra per megabyte of data used

These caps are about 25% of the current roaming caps for calls and data, and approximately 33% of existing caps for texts.  The European Commission has said that these caps are likely to make roaming within the EU 75% cheaper during the interim period up to June 2017.

There have been a number of caps introduced since 2007 with the most recent one in July 2014.  In fact, fees for roaming have dropped by 80% since 2007, with data roaming charges in particular falling by up to 91%.

Critics of the roaming ban suggest that the loss of revenue for mobile phone companies could push up prices in general, including prices for non-travellers.  However, statistics show that travellers are reluctant to use their mobile phones while abroad due to excessive roaming charges.  A survey carried out in 2014 found that, on average, a quarter of EU users and 35% of Irish residents switch off their data roaming services when travelling within the EU.  According to another EC survey, 28% of mobile phone users turn off their mobile phones while travelling abroad.  Among the rest, the survey found that 30% of the respondents do not use voice services, 25% never text and 47% do not use data while abroad.  Therefore, consistency in prices should serve to achieve consistency in usage and revenue.

The abolition of roaming charges and the creation of a single telecoms market within the EU will mean that mobile phone users can continue their domestic mobile phone usage patterns when travelling within the EU.

Consumers will notice some savings while roaming during the summer of 2016.  However, the abolition of roaming charges by 15th June 2017 will then see consumers paying the same price for calls, texts and mobile data wherever they are travelling in the EU.