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EU roaming fees finally over: Here’s what it means for Germany

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EU roaming fees finally over: Here’s what it means for Germany
File photo: DPA.
10:53 CEST+02:00
As of Thursday, it's finally time to wave goodbye to those pesky and pricey roaming charges in Europe.

What are roaming charges?

These are the often astronomical extra charges added to the phone bills of holidaymakers for making calls, sending texts and using internet mobile data when in a foreign country.

The EU has now abolished these charges saying that customers must now be charged the same for using their mobile as they would in their home country, according to their phone contract. In other words when you hop over to Spain this summer, you'll pay the same rates as you do at home in Germany. And if you live in Spain and go abroad in the EU, well the same price plan applies. So in theory no more "phone bill shock" at the end of the holiday.

Travellers should receive a text when they arrive in the new country explaining the rules.

The EU Commission estimates that the average savings for cellphone users in Germany will be €144 per year without the fees.

Is it free to use my phone abroad?

No. Charging people more to use their phones in the EU has been banned – not not charging them at all.

The idea is that mobile users can now "roam like at home" when travelling within the EU.

But do I have to pay to receive a call?

No, those nasty charges have gone.

And what about German providers?

Cellphone service providers in Germany like Vodafone sent out text messages, informing customers that their plans are now also valid in the EU.

The German Federal Network Agency says it will be closely monitoring companies to ensure they are complying with the new rules.

Still, according to German consumer protection organization Stiftung Warentest, nine out of 16 service providers will still charge extra costs, Handelsblatt reports. For example, many low-cost providers are selling plans that can only be used inside Germany, warns Christine Steffen of the Consumer Advice Centre in North Rhine-Westphalia.

These plans with providers like Aldi Talk, Lidl Connect, or Edeka Mobil offer customers cheaper domestic packages to call fellow users with the company for free, but this offer is then not possible outside the country.

Whether larger providers will raise monthly prices to offset the eliminated roaming fees is still not clear, according to Handelsblatt. Deutsche Telekom told the newspaper that they “still have no definitive solution”, while Vodafone Germany said they were looking at the EU rules “with great concern”, and that there would not be an increase.

But don't expect unlimited internet abroad

Photo: DPA

People use their phones differently while on holiday to at home – sharing more often, taking more pictures, using maps, calling to check on each other or to let family and friends at home know how they're getting on. This means you are at a higher risk of going over you allowance.

If you have a top of the range tariff with unlimited data, you will find mobile operators have still put limits in place.

How will Brexit affect the changes?

This is on the long list of things to be negotiated in the Brexit deal although it's not likely to be a priority.

When they get round to it, the UK government will have the choice of following the new regulations because they haven't been written into UK law.

Does the scrapping of charges only apply to the EU?

It applies for European Union countries as well as the European Economic Area countries of Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Travellers need to be careful about using their phones in some non-EU countries like Switzerland, Andorra, Monaco, the Vatican City and Gibraltar as well as the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, which are not formally part of the EU or even the European Economic Area (EEA). Country inclusion depends on your provider, so it's best to contact them directly.

So this means my bills when on holiday in the EU will be smaller?

There has been some suggestion that mobile phone users on contracts that give them unlimited data might still find themselves facing punitive charges if they use more than a set limit on that data. It is advisable to check the small print on your contract if you think this may apply to you.

Do the changes include people on pay-as-you-go deals?

Yes. It's a legal ruling so applies everywhere in the EU – regardless of what sort of mobile deal you have. Once you step outside the EU then you have to check your individual contracts to see what applies.

Can I call local numbers free while on holiday?

No. If you need to call the hotel, book a restaurant or call a tour guide, that will be treated as an international call – even though you're in the same country as them at the time.

Need to know more?

CLICK HERE for a full list of frequently asked questions about EU roaming charges as answered by the EU itself.

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