Mobile roaming charges abolished for European Union citizens

The Roam Like Home legislation effectively bans service providers from adding extra charges to mobile calls, text messages and downloads made on phones registered in one European Union country and used in another.

Roaming refers to the ability to use a local service when travelling - so it only applies when customers are overseas.

The Malta Communications Authority has prepared a comprehensive guide, available on its website, which explains that in certain circumstances, providers can apply a data limit, for example - although if you have an unlimited data bundle, your operators "must provide you with a large volume of Roam Like at Home data, depending on the price of your data bundle".

"EU citizens would benefit if they could phone more cheaply when on holiday in Switzerland", he said.

The soon-to-be outdated regulation, which in some cases left customers facing bills of hundreds of pounds, was described by the European Commission as a major "market failure".

People use their phones differently while on holiday to at home - sharing more often, taking more pictures, using maps, calling to check on each other or to let family and friends at home know how they're getting on. The three European institutions - the Parliament, Council and Commission - issued a statement describing the end of roaming charges as a true European success story.

This is good news, at least until the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, but consumer watchdog Which? has warned that, despite the EC's promises, consumers could still arrive home to ruddy huge phone bills.

However, users should be careful, since this does not mean that calls from mobile phones with Croatian SIM card to numbers in the rest of the European Union are also free of extra charge.

According to The Irish Independent, recent figures from Ireland's telecom regulator show that Irish customers are now using their phones more for internet access than calls or texts.

"Roaming charges will now be a thing of the past".

You'll also need to be careful in Monaco, Vatican City, and Gibraltar.

Swiss mobile phone operators like Swisscom, Salt and Sunrise, which dominate the market, have been earning hundreds of millions of francs a year from roaming fees charged to customers when they use their mobile phones outside the country.

In 2013, it proposed the legislation to end roaming charges which takes effect on Thursday.

Roam Like at Home is the final stage of a process which saw roaming rates being systematically lowered since 2007, but which only really became possible when the Member States agreed on a fair use policy last December to prevent the abuse of providers with the most competitive rates (see box).

  • Arturo Norris