“Roam like at home” in the eu: here’s what you have to watch out for when using your cell phone abroad

Sharing vacation pictures on the atlantic beach in france, making calls from the train in the netherlands to germany, or chatting with friends back home via messenger while waiting in the greek port: since summer 2017, all of this is supposed to be possible at no extra charge at the rate in germany. Thanks to an EU regulation, the motto "roam like at home" applies, roaming at domestic prices.

This applies to phone calls, sending and receiving text messages, and mobile data usage. Consumers only have to pay as much for all this in other EU member states as for the same usage in their home country.

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the prerequisite is that the regulated EU tariff is activated, explains the consumer advice center of north rhine-westphalia (VZ NRW). However, this does not happen automatically with all providers. With some providers, customers had to take action and send an SMS to a speed dial number, for example. Consumers who have booked an alternative roaming tariff are particularly affected. Providers were allowed to continue offering such alternatives to the EU tariff. If you want to be on the safe side, ask your provider before you travel.

And how is "roam like at home"? Started?

"According to our observations, everything works with EU roaming, and there are no problems", says alexander kuch from the telecommunications portal "teltarif.De". However, some consumers assumed that providers would no longer charge separately for calls from germany to other EU countries because of the roaming regulation. "But this is not the case", warns kuch. "The regulation only applies when customers are abroad in the EU with their german cell phone and make calls from there within the EU." Calls from germany are charged according to the tariff of your provider.

However, there are also mobile rates that can only be used to make calls within germany, explains kuch. They don’t work abroad, so if in doubt, the user has to change the tariff or even the provider.

Data volume in other EU countries: fair-use regulation

Many also believe that they can use their entire monthly data volume in other EU countries at no additional cost. Here, however, a so-called fair-use regulation applies. Behind this are calculation formulas specified by the EU as to whether and where the providers are allowed to apply the scissors to the inclusive volume and charge fees above a certain consumption level – but they do not have to do so.

The calculation is predetermined by the EU, quite complicated and depends not only on the inclusive volume, but also on the monthly base fee of the tariff. Consumers only need to remember the following: "if your provider has not explicitly informed you of a data limit for roaming, you will have access to the entire data volume that your contract guarantees you at home, even when you are abroad", the federal network agency explains.

"Roam like at home is otherwise only limited by the period in which the user is abroad. According to VZ NRW, the regulation no longer applies if the provider recognizes that someone is making more calls, texting or surfing abroad than at home. In this case he can send a warning to his client and ask for an explanation. In this situation, it can make sense to buy a prepaid SIM card from a provider in the country you are traveling to.

Two phanomena

Andre schulze-wethmar, a lawyer at the european consumer center (ECC), also draws attention to two other phenomena. "When calls are made in border regions with switzerland, cell phones dial into the swiss network, even if they are still in germany." And since the EU regulations do not apply to switzerland, there may be additional costs. However, there are also providers who treat switzerland as an EU country and do not charge any additional costs. So you should ask beforehand.

Pitfalls continue to lurk on cruise ships and cruises: there, operators often set up an on-board network where EU regulations do not apply. Schulze-wethmar’s tip here: deactivate the mobile internet and ask for on-board mobile phone prices in advance.

"Within the EU, all network operators have generally agreed on LTE roaming among themselves, so surfing at high speeds is actually possible", alexander kuch explains. However, there is no entitlement to the speed promised in germany.

Info: roaming in non-EU countries

Prepaid SIM cards from a provider in the country of travel are often the first choice when staying in a non-EU country for several weeks or regularly. For those who make a lot of phone calls and surf the internet, it can still be expensive there. Here, too, look up the costs in the tariff price list before going on vacation.

There are also special roaming rates from the providers. Andre schulze-wethmar of the european consumer center believes, however, that the offers for vacationers are rather uninteresting: "the question arises whether a package with a one-year term is worthwhile if you only stay for two weeks in a non-EU country."

For those who do not necessarily need to access the internet via the mobile network, he advises: "customers should deactivate the mobile internet in the third country if it is not really needed. Instead, it makes more sense to use wireless hotspots." And if all else fails, there is still a worldwide valid cost protection: if 59.50 euros are accrued through mobile surfing, the connection is cut off.

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