Have we really seen the end of punitive roaming charges? One year on, we check in on the details of the European Commission's "roam like at home" law which came into effect in June 2017.
You may have noticed in the last year that travelling in the EU with your phone in tow has become a lot less daunting when it comes to those post-holiday phone bills.
So, what does “roam like at home” actually mean? Read on for the details of the law and how to calculate your data roaming allowance.
What is the EU’s “roam like at home law”?
The “roam like at home” law saw the abolishment of EU roaming fees across all mobile phone plans for calls and texts, meaning that since the 15th of June 2017, customers have not been charged anything extra to make calls or texts whilst roaming in any EU member state.
However, the same blanket abolishment of charges does not extend to data usage and this has been a source of controversy and confusion surrounding the new law.
What’s the story with data roaming?
Here’s the crux of it; when it comes to data, mobile operators are allowed to impose fair usage limits under certain circumstances when you're roaming in the EU.
Each operator’s policy differs, but if you exceed your pre-determined data roaming limit while abroad, you will still be subject to penalty fees, although they will be capped under EU law.
From 15th of June 2017, the most you could be charged for exceeding your operator's roaming limit was €7.70 per GB of data, but this cap has already decreased to €6 per GB as of 01/01/2018 and will continue to decrease over the course of the next few years; €4.5/GB (01/01/2019), €3.5/GB (01/01/2020), €3/GB (01/01/2021) and €2.5/GB (01/01/2022).
How can I calculate my data roaming limit*?
I’m a prepay customer with a limited data plan, what do I get?
If you pay less than €6 per GB on your prepay plan, you can calculate your allowance by dividing your remaining credit by 6.
So for example, let’s say you’re a prepay customer paying €30 a month for a plan that includes 15GB of data.
To calculate your data roaming allowance, first, you need to find out how much you are paying excluding VAT (23%) which would be €23.10. You then divide this by 6 to get 3.85.
I have unlimited data, what do I get?
If you have unlimited data in Ireland, you can calculate your roaming allowance by dividing the amount you pay every month (minus VAT) by 6 and multiplying the answer by 2.
For example, let’s say you pay €20 a month for a plan that includes unlimited data. Minus VAT you pay €15.60. Divide this number by 6 and multiply by 2 to get 5.2.
Your roaming limit is 5.2GB.
I’m a bill pay customer with limited data, what do I get?
This is where it gets a little tricky.
If you pay less than €3 per GB, you can calculate your allowance by dividing the amount you pay every month (minus VAT) by 6 and multiplying the answer by 2.
For instance, say you are paying €50 a month for a plan that includes 15GB of data (without VAT you are paying €38.50). This means at this rate you are paying €2.56 per GB of data. Since you’re paying under the €3 per GB threshold, your operator is entitled to impose a roaming limit. So, divide €38.50 by 6 and multiply by 2 to get 12.8.
Your roaming limit is 12.8GB.
However, if you pay more than €3 per GB, your operator will give you your full allowance, so long as you aren’t on an unlimited plan, obviously.
So for example, let’s say you pay €40 a month for a plan that includes 5GB of data. This means you are paying €5.13 per GB (ex. VAT) meaning that you’re entitled to your entire 5GB while roaming.
This, of course, means that of the 4 case types we have looked at, only the last one meets the criteria for a true “roam like at home” experience.
“Roam like at home” is a misnomer
The statement “roam like at home” is a bold one that few could be blamed for taking at face value. Therefore, it’s not surprising that there was so much controversy in the media following the revelation that the law would not, in fact, allow for data roaming consumption without limits.
However, the European Commission should be commended for its gradual reduction of roaming charges over the last number of years. In fact, data roaming is now up to 96% cheaper compared to 2012 when the first EU retail price cap became applicable for data roaming.
And, come the end of 2018, the maximum fee per GB of data used abroad will have decreased by nearly half again since the new caps were introduced just last year.
The “roam like at home” law shouldn’t be a cause for alarm for anyone, it only means good things at the end of the day, its biggest crime being its misleading name.
*The example calculations in this article were made using rates as set out by the European Commission. Your particular operator may offer you more in terms of a data roaming limit and the figures above indicate only how much they will be obligated to supply under the new law.