Why is roaming so expensive

Roaming in the EU - important questions and answers

What does the EU roaming regulation say?

Since June 15, 2017, there are basically no surcharges on the (national) agreed tariffs, so that calls, messages and surfing can be made at home within the EU and states of the European Economic Area (EEA).

We explain here which traps lurk when traveling long-distance to non-EU countries.


What does the slogan "Roam like at home!" Mean?

Use the phone as if you were at home. You can make calls, send text messages or surf the Internet as your tariff and contract allow without additional charges. That means: as long as you use the roaming service appropriately ("fair use").


Who can use roaming under these conditions?

Everyone who lives in Germany, for example, but is traveling in the EU to work or go on vacation.

"At home" means the (legal reporting) place of residence and thus a country in which a person has permanent connections. Consumers who study or work (seconded) full-time and thus spend a substantial and recurring part of their time in another EU country can also roam.


Do i have to do anything to get free roaming?

The roaming surcharges should automatically cease to apply to all consumers from June 15, 2017. But not all mobile phone providers have implemented the rules automatically. Before traveling to another EU country, if you are in doubt, contact your provider and inquire about the settings of your tariff. If you find out that you should continue to pay roaming surcharges, a change to the roam-like-at-home rules must generally be made free of charge within one working day.


For which countries does the EU roaming regulation apply?

The 28 EU member states: Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Spain, Czech Republic, Hungary, United Kingdom, Cyprus and the so-called EEA states Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland.

In Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, the new rules came into force shortly after June 15. In the event of a country leaving the EU, such as Great Britain, the respective country will probably be assigned to world zone 3.

ATTENTION: The EU roaming regulation only applies to the countries listed (i.e. not to Switzerland or Turkey) and not to cellular networks of airplanes and ships!

The EU roaming regulation does not apply to San Marino, Andorra, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, Gibraltar, the Vatican City and overseas territories in the Caribbean. Some providers still assign these areas to the EU country list, but others do not. So check carefully before you travel!


What can phone calls and text messages from your home country to other EU countries cost?

Regardless of whether by mobile phone or via the landline network: Calls from Germany to other EU countries have only cost a maximum of 19 cents per minute net since May 15, 2019. An SMS can then be sent for a maximum of six cents without VAT. This means that anyone who dials a telephone connection from Germany to another EU country or sends a short message there on the basis of a contract concluded in Germany will usually be charged at most the cost of the new upper price limits. However, the regulation on the new price caps for calls and SMS from Germany to other EU countries initially only applies for a period of around five years.

Particularities: The upper price limit applies to phone calls or SMS if the units used are billed per minute or per SMS, depending on usage. Telecommunications companies can also offer special tariffs in which the upper price limit is not taken into account. This is the case, for example, when customers book a tariff that includes calls and SMS to other EU countries but also to third countries.

For such special tariffs, providers can still set the prices themselves. In the case of flat-rate contracts that include international calls to non-EU countries in addition to EU countries, the upper price limits do not have to be observed. This changes suddenly as soon as the minute or SMS packages of the flat rate are used up. From then on, only costs in the amount of the capped prices may be charged. For international calls, customers should check in good time whether a flat rate tariff is cheaper for them despite the abolition of the upper price limits.

In the case of special tariffs, the new regulations automatically come into force on July 15, 2019, depending on the tariff only after a period of two months. However, there is also the option of switching directly to the capped tariff free of charge. If you want to keep your special tariff you have to inform your telephone provider before the deadline.

You should find out in good time which tariff is the cheapest for you in order not to fall into a cost trap due to the automatic changeover.


What can phone calls and SMS from other EU countries to other EU countries or home countries cost?

The EU roaming regulation says that calls such as domestic calls in your home country are billed according to your mobile phone tariff. Example: You are in Spain and you are calling a connection in Germany. There are costs for this, as for a phone call from Germany to Germany.

The same applies if you choose a connection in Spain or another EU / EEA country - this is also billed like a telephone call from Germany to Germany.


Is there a time limit on how long I can safely be classified as "roam like at home"?

In principle, the following applies: As long as you spend more time "at home", i.e. in your home EU country, and you use your mobile device more in your home national network, the EU roaming regulation applies to you.

There are exceptions if the network operator can see that you spend most of the time or within four months more time in another EU country and during this time you make more calls, write SMS or surf than in your home national network. Your provider will inform you about the duration of the "observation period" in the contract.

Your mobile operator records your whereabouts and the connections that have been made. He will send you a warning that roaming surcharges may apply if your usage behavior does not change within two weeks or you cannot prove that you are predominantly in Germany (see also "When may the provider charge surcharges?") And prompt you to comment on your telephony behavior within 14 days. If you continue to use your smartphone like at home, a fee will be added to your connections. This is currently limited to a maximum of 3.2 cents per minute of the call and 1 cent per SMS.

The maximum surcharge for data is 7.70 euros per GB (from June 15, 2017) and drops to 6 euros per GB (from January 1, 2018), 4.50 euros per GB (from January 1, 2019), 3.50 EUR per GB (from January 1, 2020), EUR 3 per GB (from January 1, 2021) and finally EUR 2.50 per GB (from January 1, 2022).
 

Is there a volume limit for calling, sending SMS and using mobile data?

If you have unlimited calls and messages at home, they will continue to do so. If you have an unlimited mobile data plan or a very cheap one, then your provider can impose a (fair use) limit on the use of data while roaming.
If so, your provider will inform you in advance of such a limit and notify you if you reach it. This protection limit should be high enough to use the mobile data as usual. If you exceed the limit, you can continue to use data roaming, but there are costs here (a maximum of 7.70 euros / GB + VAT with a falling trend gradually to 2.50 euros / GB by 2022).


How do I know the limit for my mobile data?

Basically, you can use your mobile data. Your provider must tell you how much data volume you can use abroad. If your provider does not explicitly inform you of a roaming data limit, you can use the full data volume abroad.


Be careful when making calls in the WLAN

You can use many hotspots and WiFi networks abroad free of charge to surf the Internet. However, it can get expensive if you make calls via WLAN. Many smartphones support this. The technology is called "VoWiFi" (English: Voice over Wireless Fidelity). It can also be called WLAN-Call or WiFi-Call. Your wireless service provider may have to activate the function first. And he can charge additional costs for such calls, because they are not covered by the EU roaming regulation.

In order to avoid cost traps, find out from your provider whether they charge fees for WLAN calls before going abroad. If in doubt, you can switch off the option or switch it off yourself in the settings of your smartphone. When staying in countries of the EU and the European Economic Area (EEA), WiFi calls are usually more expensive than phone calls over the cellular network.

Alternatively, you can also make free calls using some messenger or other apps. As a rule, this does not incur any costs for your mobile operator if you use a free WiFi connection.


What can I do if I get a high bill after my vacation?

If you do not agree to your mobile phone bill, complain and complain to your provider within eight weeks of receipt (ยง 45 i TKG). Deny the establishment of the connections with the excessive and incomprehensible roaming costs.

Request a technical test report and, if not already available, a remuneration statement - a kind of proof of individual connection as part of the complaint procedure. If the connections in question are on the remuneration statement, they are legally regarded as prima facie evidence and thus as established. You then have to prove otherwise.

If your provider does not comply with the obligation to provide evidence, which is why you may not have been billed according to the EU-regulated tariff, contact the Federal Network Agency.

Whether a contradiction is successful cannot be assessed across the board and depends on the individual case. Book back the charge that was debited by direct debit and transfer the undisputed charge to the mobile operator. Name the undisputed invoice items. Danger: This may result in reminders and other costs. The blocking of the mobile phone connection cannot be ruled out. Your provider may not simply and extraordinarily terminate your term contract.

The consumer advice centers will advise you on these issues.


I live near a national border and my network often connects to that of the neighboring country. Is this detrimental to me?

If the neighboring country is also part of the EU: No. Your phone has to dial into the domestic (national) network once a day. This way your provider recognizes that you are not "roaming". Your provider will advise you on how to avoid accidental roaming.

But beware! If the neighboring country does not belong to the EU and the mobile phone has connected to the network of the neighboring country, the EU roaming regulation no longer applies. This may result in higher costs, as the costs for the non-EU international tariff apply.
In order to avoid unforeseen costs, you should therefore always check whether your cell phone is still connected to the network of the EU country when you are near the border to a non-EU country.


Do I need a temporary local SIM when traveling abroad so that I can make cheaper calls?

No, if you don't want to travel longer than a few (vacation) weeks, you don't need a foreign SIM card.


How does the provider control my habitual residence or my stable connection?

Proof of your habitual residence
You will need to provide a valid document showing which Member State you are resident or provide proof of your postal or billing address, a certificate from a higher education institution of full-time enrollment, proof of enrollment on local electoral rolls or proof of payment from local electoral rolls Submit taxes or head taxes.

Proof of your stable connection
You can prove this with a permanent full-time employment relationship including that of cross-border commuters from permanent contractual relationships that involve a similar personal presence of a self-employed person, from participation in recurring full-time study courses or from other situations such as that of posted workers.


When can the provider charge surcharges?

If you exceed your fair use limit for data services, if you have not proven habitual residence or a stable connection to your home country at the operator's request, or if improper roaming use is discovered after the observation period.

You will receive a warning if you have to change your usage behavior within two weeks to prove that there has been no misuse. Otherwise, the roaming provider is entitled to charge a surcharge for the use of roaming services (subject to compliance with the stated maximum charges) as soon as it is reported that improper use has been detected. The surcharge may only be charged until the behavior of the customer no longer shows any improper use.


What should you watch out for with prepaid cards?

The same principle applies to prepaid cards: making calls and surfing the web in other EU countries costs the same as at home. However, there is a small exception for very inexpensive providers without included volume: If the price for data consumption is below the purchase price (for 2018 that is 6.00 euros - per gigabyte), the provider may invoice this purchase price.

Most prepaid cell phones usually already have roaming activated. However, the roaming options of the various network operators are different. Therefore, before you travel, you should always find out whether you can use your own prepaid card in the country you are traveling to.

Cost trap special numbers

Please note that dialing special numbers from abroad (e.g. 0180, 00800) can result in very high costs, as these may not fall under the "Roam like at Home" rule.