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Telecommunications in the European Union

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Telecommunications in the European Union

European Union roaming regulations (sometimes called the Eurotariff) regulate the imposition of roaming charges within the European Union. They regulate both charges mobile network operators can impose on their subscribers for using telephony and data services outside of the network's member state, and the wholesale rates networks can charge each other to allow their subscribers access to each other's networks.

Since 2007, the roaming regulations have steadily lowered the maximum roaming charges allowable. A new regulation, which has passed the European parliament and still need to be approved by the Council of the European Union, would make all end-user roaming charges in the EU illegal from 15 December 2015, ensuring that customers always pay the same for all calls, text messages (SMS), and mobile data usage everywhere in the EU. A modified version under discussion would set a "fair use" limit for how big a portion of phone usage could be same-price roaming, after which telecom companies would be allowed to charge a higher rate.[1]

General information

The European Commission had repeatedly urged mobile operators to lower the charges for using mobile phones abroad, but they remained on average four times more expensive than domestic mobile phone calls. The data rates are 500 to 1,000 times more expensive than domestic rates.

In October 2005, the European Commission launched a consumer website on roaming tariffs in order to highlight the continuing problem of high roaming charges. It exposed roaming prices of up to 12 euro for a 4-minute call. When high roaming charge rates continued to be the norm the Commission proposed to intervene in the market by setting maximum rates at which mobile network operators could charge their subscribers. Viviane Reding, the Commissioner for Information Society and Media published the proposed regulation in July 2006 and it came into law in June 2007 after being approved by the European Parliament and by the Council of Ministers.

The regulation required the compulsory capping of roaming charges from 30 September 2007, unless a special roaming tariff applied. The maximum prices was set to decrease every year with operators able to compete below the maximum allowed level.

A wholesale price cap on Internet roaming was introduced on 1 July 2009 and a price cap for end users was introduced on 1 July 2012. Customers traveling to another Member State receive an automated message of the charges that apply for data roaming services.

Under new rules as of 1 July 2009, consumers also benefit from per-second billing after 30 seconds for calls made, and per-second billing throughout for calls received to ensure that consumers do not face any 'hidden costs' when they are roaming. This was expected to increase consumers savings by over 20%. And since 1 July 2010, operators must provide customers with the opportunity to determine in advance how much they want to spend before the service is disabled ("cut-off").

The Commission, together with the national regulatory authorities, monitored the development of the telecommunications market. If normal market conditions had been established in the market for roaming, the regulation was meant to expire in three years from 2007 (30 June 2010). However, the Commission could also propose to continue to regulate the roaming market, if normal market conditions were not working yet. Under the latest proposal this regulation would be extended to 30 June 2016. Ultimately the Commission determined that normal market conditions were not working yet and that additional measures were required.[2]

Proposed law to abolish all roaming charges

On 3 April 2014, the members of the European Parliament voted by 534 votes to 25 to end roaming fees within the European Union from 15 December 2015.[3] According to the proposed regulation, any service offered by a mobile operator must not cost more when roaming inside the EU than on the mobile operator's own network. The name roam like at home (RLAH) has been used for the proposal.[1]

The Council of the European Union has to approve the regulations before they can take effect; a final agreement is expected by the end of 2014.[4] As of September 2014, the Transport, Telecommunications and Energy Council (TTE) has debated the law once, in June 2014.[5] According to the summary of that debate, the roaming changes were not "examined in detail".[6] Four more meetings of the TTE are planned for 2014.[7]

Reporting on the status of the proposed law in September 2014, Reuters noted that the details of the law were somewhat controversial, though the basic idea still has broad support. To avoid endusers abusing the system by subscribing in the cheapest country, and then using the phone in another country, Italy proposed to set a "fair use" limit for how much of an enduser's phone usage may be in other countries, an idea "well received by all member states".[1]


Currently roaming regulation is applied to and within 31 countries, all members of the European Economic Area (EEA). These consist of the 28 EU members, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The EU countries have applied the roaming regulation since 30 August 2007 while the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries have applied it since 1 January 2008.

Switzerland is not included, despite close relations with the EU in several fields. Charges are considerably higher for EEA residents roaming in Switzerland, and for Swiss residents in the EEA, especially on internet data. Rates vary, but are often around €3/MB (2014).


Common limits

In force from 30 Aug 2007 30 Aug 2008 1 Jul 2009 1 Jul 2010 1 Jul 2011 1 Jul 2012 1 Jul 2013 1 Jul 2014 16 Dec 2015
In force until 29 Aug 2008 30 Jun 2009 30 Jun 2010 30 Jun 2011 30 Jun 2012 30 Jun 2013 30 Jun 2014 15 Dec 2015 30 Jun 2022
Service Unit Roaming limits in EEA countries
(all the prices are in euro without VAT)[8][9][10]
Retail caps (applies to subscribers)
Outgoing calls to any EEA number price of 1 minute 0.49 0.46 0.43 0.39 0.35 0.29 0.24 0.19
billing interval Not regulated per second starting from 31st second
Incoming calls from any number price of 1 minute 0.24 0.22 0.19 0.15 0.11 0.08 0.07 0.05
billing interval Not regulated per second starting from 1st second
Incoming calls redirected to voice mail[a 1] price of 1 minute 0.73 0.68 0.62 Free
Outgoing text message to any EEA number price of 1 message Not regulated 0.11 0.09 0.08 0.06
Incoming text message from any number price of 1 message Not regulated Free
Data transfer price of 1 Megabyte Not regulated 0.70 0.45 0.20
billing interval Not regulated per 1 KB starting from 1st KB
monthly default cut-off limit Not regulated 50.00
Right to choose an alternative roaming provider (ARP)[a 2][11] Not regulated Yes
Default notification text message with roaming prices Not regulated Yes
Free number to call for detailed roaming prices Not regulated Yes
Free '112' access in roaming Not regulated Yes
Wholesale caps (Operator to Operator)
Outgoing calls to any EEA number price of 1 minute 0.30 0.28 0.26 0.22 0.18 0.14 0.10 0.05
billing interval Not regulated per second starting from 31st second
Inbound calls same as termination of a non-roaming call on the visited network, see Termination rates.[a 3]
Outgoing text message to any EEA number price of 1 message Not regulated 0.04 0.03 0.02
Incoming text message from any number Not regulated Free
Data transfer price of 1 Megabyte Not regulated 1.00 0.80 0.50 0.25 0.15 0.05
billing interval Not regulated per 1 KB starting from 1st KB
Right to use other operators' networks in other Member States at regulated wholesale prices[11] Not regulated Yes
Legend Past
  1. ^ When incoming calls are redirected to voice mail, operators can charge for message recording as much as a sum of their tariffs for incoming calls and outgoing calls back to home country. Beginning on 1 July 2010 operators cannot charge their roaming customers for the receipt by them of a roaming voice mail message. Listening to such messages could still be charged as an outgoing call in the future.
  2. ^ Customer would have the option to sign for roaming contract, separate from national mobile services, while keeping the same phone number and SIM card.
  3. ^ The visited network charges the same rate as it would charge for termination of a non-roaming call. This practice was already required by national regulators before the EU roaming regulations were implemented, so it is outside of the scope of this regulation.[12]

Exchange rates

For services paid for in currencies other than the euro, the amount in euro is converted to the other currency using the reference rates published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJoEU).

After the adoption of EU regulation 531/2012[10] the retail exchange rate to be used for the relevant year should be calculated by taking the average of the reference exchange rates published in the OJoEU on 1 March, 1 April and 1 May of that year, with the new exchange rate coming into force on 1 July of that year. The wholesale exchange rate however is taken from only the rate published on 1 May of that year.

Local price limits

Method of calculating

As the VAT rates and currencies vary across the EU and EEA, the European Commission publishes price caps in euro and excluding VAT. So the final prices for each country can be calculated by adding the corresponding VAT rate and converting to the currency of the country (if non-euro).

For countries using the euro For countries using currency other than euro
x = \left(1+\frac{\text{VAT}}{100\%}\right) \cdot EC_{\text{rate}} x = \left(1+\frac{\text{VAT}}{100\%}\right) \cdot EC_\text{rate} \cdot Ex_\text{rate}
EC_{\text{rate}} is European Commission maximum allowed tariff without VAT in euro
{\text{VAT}} is Value Added Tax rate for specified country, given in per cent
Ex_{\text{rate}} is Exchange rate for specified country published by ECB

In order to avoid double taxation, non-taxation or the distortion of competition, an EU member state may, in accordance with Article 9(3)(a) of Council Directive 77/388 ("the Sixth VAT Directive"), include within the scope of its national VAT any telecommunications services used within its territory but billed outside the EU VAT area. When opting to do so, it must also exempt from its national VAT any roaming services supplied by home networks within its territory but used outside the EU VAT area. The inclusion of telecommunications within the scope of Article 9 was requested by the United Kingdom,[13] which subsequently enacted the change under Article 19 of the Value Added Tax (Place of Supply of Services) Order 1992. Consequently when an EU member state makes this VAT exemption, roaming on networks in the Åland Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, the Canary Islands, Ceuta, Melilla and French overseas departments is subject to the price caps with no VAT applied, because these countries and territories are within the EEA but outside the EU VAT area.


The charge limits for the Eurotariff and the wholesale average charge should be calculated to the maximum number of decimal places permitted by the official exchange rate. This sets the maximum that can be charged in the national currency. Providers may wish in practice to quote charges in whole numbers of currency units, especially at the retail level, although this in practice is not compulsory. In this case, the numbers should be rounded down. Rounding up of these numbers to above the level of the relevant cap is not permitted under any circumstances.[14][15]


  1. ^ a b c
  2. ^ "Digital Agenda for Europe: what would it do for me?" (PDF). Memos. European Union. 2010-05-19. MEMO/10/199. Archived from the original on 2013-05-11. 
  3. ^ Staff (2014-04-03). "MEPs vote to scrap mobile roaming fees in Europe". BBC News (BBC). Archived from the original on 2014-04-04. 
  4. ^ Finley, Klint (2014-03-04). "European Parliament Votes to Protect Net Neutrality, Kill Roaming Fees". Wired. Archived from the original on 2014-04-04. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Regulation (EC) 717/2007". 
  9. ^ "Regulation (EC) 544/2009". 
  10. ^ a b "Regulation (EU) 531/2012". 
  11. ^ a b "Digital Agenda: Commission proposes more competition, more choice and lower prices for mobile phone users abroad - frequently asked questions" (PDF). Memos. European Union. 2011-07-06. MEMO/11/485. Archived from the original on 2013-05-11. 
  12. ^ "OECD". p. 28. 
  13. ^ "EU Official Journal No. L86, 28.3.97, p. 33". 
  14. ^ "International Roaming Regulation - ERG Guidelines Final Release" (PDF). BEREC/ERG. 2008-01-15. ERG(07)86rev2 081215. Archived from the original on 2011-04-01. 
  15. ^ "International Roaming Regulation - ERG Guidelines 2nd Release" (PDF). BEREC/ERG. 2007-08-22. ERG(07)46. Archived from the original on 2014-07-01. 

External links

  • Procedure File: 2013/0309(COD) - The proposed EU law which includes an abolishment of all roaming charges.
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