Smart Consumer: Lowering roaming charges in the EU is a great call
Heading abroad this summer? But what do you do if you're surgically attached to your mobile phone? Or even if you just want to make the odd call and check a few emails?
Do yourself a favour and check out the roaming charges you'll pay.
But at least for travel in Europe, the days of bill shock should be well and truly over.
The price caps imposed by the European Commission on roaming charges have been decreasing annually since first being introduced in 2007. They change again this Sunday (July 1) and these are the highest prices (ex-VAT) that can be charged from then:
29c per minute to make a call
8c to take a call
9c per text
These are reduced from the caps of 35c, 11c and 11c (all ex-VAT) respectively, that have been in place since last July.
But talking and texting aren't all we do on our phones. So if you want to tweet from Talinn or post a picture on Facebook from Fuengirola, you'll need to pay attention to the data download charge caps.
Downloading data used to cost up to €4 per megabyte, but from Sunday, data download charges will be capped at 70c per megabyte (ex-VAT). But even at the reduced cost, it can all add up. So there is also a limit for total download costs and that is €50.
Your network has to alert you when you reach 80pc of that spend. Once you reach the €50 limit, you'll be given the option to keep going and spend more or else you'll be cut off.
The European Commission will continue to decrease caps for calls and texts (they'll stay in place until the end of June 2017); and as for downloads, in two years' time the maximum cost will have reduced to 20c.
Also from July 2014, we're going to have the option to shop around for a separate deal for a roaming 'add-on' from another phone company.
All of this is designed to provide greater competition and lower costs for us.
So far so good, but what if you're venturing outside of the EU? Well, when it comes to data, from July 1 even when outside the EU, your network will have to give you that warning message about nearing the €50 limit, or a higher limit if you have pre-agreed one.
That's good news but cold comfort for Lesley, who visited Canada in January before that warning message was required. She checked her phone to see if emails had arrived but says she didn't open them or download any attachments.
So why did she get a bill for a whopping €1,800?
It turns out some apps she had on her phone were updating in the background.
There is no limit to the price that can be charged per megabyte once outside the EU, so you're likely to reach the €50 limit pretty quickly. You'll still be better off if you just turn off the data roaming facility on your Smartphone, and you can always turn it on again when you're in a WiFi zone.
Roaming: Top Tips
Check roaming packages provided by your operator.
If you find a WiFi zone consider using Apps such as Skype, WhatsApp and Viber to make calls and texts for free.
Manually choose a network in the country you are visiting.