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EU to cap data roaming charges

updated 08:15 pm EST, Mon March 1, 2010

Customers can set their own cut-off limits

The European Commission has initiated part of its new roaming regulations for cellular providers based in countries of the EU. As of Monday, carriers are now required to introduce cut-off mechanisms designed to protect against "bill shock" when subscribers utilize data services while traveling throughout countries in Europe.

"Protection against data roaming bill shocks is a useful step towards building customers' confidence to use mobile networks to surf the Internet when travelling around Europe," said Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes. "Such confidence is essential if people and businesses are to use the Internet to its full potential."

Providers are required to offer their subscribers a monthly cut-off limit of 50, which will serve as the default after July 1st, although customers are also permitted to choose any other amount. A warning will be sent as the bill approaches 80 percent of the chosen limit.

The data cut-off limits are part of a wider range of regulations aimed at reducing many of the disproportionate fees charged to travelers. The Commission cites several extreme examples of massive roaming charges, including a German who was allegedly charged 46,000 after downloading a TV program while roaming in France. A student was reportedly hit with a 9,000 bill during a month spent studying abroad.

Along with the data restrictions, providers must also follow specific rules for voice calls. The EU last year dropped the minutely price caps for calls placed from outside a subscriber's home country, along with received calls. Receiving text messages is free, while sending a message will bring a maximum charge of 0.11.

By Electronista Staff


  1. eagle61

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Feb 2010


    EU Roaming Charges

    The real thing that p*sses most people off in the EU is when you are a UK subscriber with O2 and get ripped off in say Spain by having to use Telefonica. O2 claim it's because of charges from other companies and they have no choice but to pass it on to the consumer.

    OK you might say, but O2 is part of Telefonica. So I'm an O2 subscriber using O2's Spanish part of the Telefonica network and they now both rip me off even though they are the same company.

    Same works with Orange. Orange UK, Orange France, Orange Deutsche, all rip their customers off even when using the Orange network in a member state.


  1. Geoduck

    Junior Member

    Joined: Jan 2010


    Bloody Well About Time

    Roaming charges are a fact of life. You'll never get away from them. But there's not been an easy way to set a cap. It's been in the Cell Provider's interest to let people get stung. They make more money. If there's a stink, well they just reduce the charge from abusive to merely absurd and act like they're doing the customer a favour. Making them cap roaming charges by default should have been done long ago. Way to go EU. Now if we could just get this in Canada. Oh right, the CRTC sets those rules here.

    I'm not holding my breath.

  1. Flying Meat

    Dedicated MacNNer

    Joined: Jan 2007


    There should be an app for that

    Pops up a notification that you aren't on your "home" network, and pulls (free of charge) up to date data, phone rates and fees from the local network that you could incur if you go on with your plans to use that local network.

    This app would necessarily work throughout the world.

  1. testudo

    Forum Regular

    Joined: Aug 2001


    Re: EU Roaming Charges

    OK you might say, but O2 is part of Telefonica. So I'm an O2 subscriber using O2's Spanish part of the Telefonica network and they now both rip me off even though they are the same company....Same works with Orange. Orange UK, Orange France, Orange Deutsche, all rip their customers off even when using the Orange network in a member state.

    Sorry, but it doesn't work that way. They may be both part of the same parent company, they are, in fact, separate companies.

    As such, they need to follow certain rules, one of those being not showing preferential treatment to yourself over others. They'd be in a world of hurt on anti-trust and anti-competition grounds if they offered O2 UK a sweetheart deal but not anyone else.

    Now, if Orange, say, was many divisions of one company (rather than separate companies under a corp. umbrella), they would HAVE to charge their divisions at cost, and not what they charge everyone else, since the money is being transferred internally (otherwise it would be a way to funnel large money from one division to prop up the other without divulging such things on their income statements). But just because it's at cost to them doesn't mean they don't get to gouge the customers!

  1. NPS_CA

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Jul 2008


    Those who don't get it...

    @testudo: I don't buy your approach for a moment. Three allows users to take their data package and voice credit to ANY three network worldwide. Each of those three networks (UK, Sweden, Italy, HK, etc) are SEPARATE companies. It boils down to how much money does it cost to allow for billing to another provider and delivering the service with good margin.

    I can ALWAY get phenomenal deals on data use and voice by using a PREPAY SIM card in most countries (bar the US/Canada). I can understand offering me as a roaming user a higher rate than a prepay SIM but what I don't get is why those rates to a roaming user are MUCH MUCH higher (example $10 a MB is a world average for non legislated data roaming. I used 500MB in Australia last week on a pre pay; that would have been $5000!) Instead I used a prepay sim with data for $9 a week (unlimited). That is a $4550 dollar difference (35 bucks for the SIM) That is gouging. No way in h*** can that provider with a straight face say it costs them OBSCENELY more for billing interchange and decent margin.

    The reason the rates are the way they are is that voice rates were obscene - less so now in the EU - but still generally obscene. Data is seen as value add so rip people off on that to. $10 a MB was cool when everyone was on GPRS but with HSDPA networks it can ring up quick. While the local PREPAY users pay a infinitesimal fraction of the rate for the same service.

    I've STOPPED data roaming last year entirely and use prepay SIM's or WiFi now; My Mobile bill is hundreds of dollars lower...

  1. RomanP

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: Mar 2010


    Roaming Guard

    The Roaming Guard application allows you the freedom of choice between data you want available and that you choose not to receive.

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