Bill shock: new roaming caps benefit mobile users in the EU, but not elsewhere

Simon Read

epcot 300x199 Bill shock: new roaming caps benefit mobile users in the EU, but not elsewhereThe new EU roaming charge cap being introduced at midnight tonight is just in time! New figures published today by Which? show that nearly one in six people have experienced a mobile phone bill shock after returning from a holiday in the last year.

A quarter ended up being charged more than £40 over their usual monthly usage.

The roaming charge cap takes effect from tomorrow – 1 July – and will lower costs for people travelling within the EU. Under the new rules the maximum charge for outgoing calls, excluding VAT, will be 19 cents per minute, six cents for outgoing text messages and 20 cents for a MB download of data.

However, the new caps only apply when you use a mobile within the EU.  Worryingly nearly half of mobile users who have been abroad in the last 12 months said they didn’t know that the price caps don’t apply to the whole of Europe.

If you’re travelling further afield you could still suffer from bill shock on your return, unless you plan beforehand.

What should you do to avoid huge charges? For starters, don’t download films, games or music abroad. Do it through home wi-fi before you leave.

But the most crucial thing is to turn off data roaming on your phone or tablet. Look up your model on the internet before you travel to find out how to do this. It will stop the automatic downloads of updates, which can really cause a huge bill.

Then find out about data roaming bundles or buy a local SIM when you arrive abroad for cheap-rate calls.

Ofcom, the regulator, has made a series of helpful videos explaining how to avoid racking up bills. Go to

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  • Joe_Pubic

    But what happens if I purchase a SIM card say in France and then need to top it up is say Italy. Normally one cannot do this on line as the phone companies ensure you cannot.
    So this EU regulation is half baked again.

  • Jon Danzig

    This initiative is thanks to the European Union. No national state working alone could have achieved a similar result; the mobile phone companies are too powerful. It required the concerted effort of EU nations working together. (Eurosceptics take note!)

  • Kallias

    3 helpfully texted me their roaming taffis last week when I was in Egypt. £2/min to make a call and £1.25 to receive £6/MB data. Even my cheapo Aldi PAYG SIM charged just 99Cents/min in and out and 99Cents/MB data

    Needless to say I didn’t make any calls or use any data on 3! I expect the others are just as bad.

  • James Boley

    But that is utter nonsense. Of course you can top up online anywhere in the world – that’s how the internet works, and it would be a very strange sort of mobile phone provider that would actively prevent you from giving them more money just because you’re not in the same geographical area.

    You don’t even need web access. As far back as 2006 I can recall ringing the top up number from my UK O2 mobile while in the back of a cab in Bangkok, and being able to top up my credit using a debit card without any problems at all. It seems to me you’re just clutching at straws trying to find a way to whinge about the EU by making things up.

  • snickerboy38

    Those damn foreigners, coming over here, making our phone bills cheaper etc etc

  • DeadReckoning

    This a rare example of the EU doing the right thing (open trading, fair pricing) – unfortunately the other 99% of what it does is either wasteful or damaging.

    Do you realise how much more food costs in the EU than it would if global prices were allowed without import tariffs to protect Froggie hobby farmers?

  • Jon Danzig

    In 1985, around 70% of the EU budget was spent on agriculture. In 2011, direct aid to farmers and market-related expenditure amount to just 30% of the budget, and rural development spending to 11%. This declining path continues.

    Agriculture is the only policy almost entirely funded from the EU budget. That means that European spending replaces to a large extent national spending, which is why it accounts for a substantial proportion of the EU budget. The EU budget pays what national budgets do not pay anymore since there is a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).

    I believe the advantages of EU membership far outweigh leaving. For example, the cheap airline market would simply not exist without the EU. It was thanks to the EU that the monopoly of some airlines was broken and the market deregulated, making possible our era of cheap air flights across Europe. Ask the bosses of Easy Jet, Ryanair, etc: they will tell you that without the EU, they would never have got their cheap flight businesses off the ground (literally).

    The laws of the European Union mainly involve the facilitation of trade, of benefit to us all, or Europe-wide protections of all its 500+ million citizens. Such as protection of the environment, safety of medicines, and uniformity of products; and protections from international crime, abuses of privacy, and personal data, etc.

  • Jon Danzig

    Europe’s post-war achievement of food security is seen as one of the EU’s successes – after years of hunger and rationing for many.

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