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EU Roaming changes - what do you need to know?

New rules are set to come into play today (June 15th) which will make it cheaper to use your phone whilst abroad in the EU.

Following years of complaints, the new European Union regulations will mean that it won’t cost any extra to make calls, send texts or use your mobile data allowance while abroad, with customers now set to be charged the same amount as you were when you’re at home. 

What countries are affected?

As the rules have been set out by the European Union, they will only affect the 28 countries within the EU. This means that popular business travel locations such as France, Spain, Italy and Germany will come under the new regulations - however other areas, including Switzerland, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, and Andorra may still have roaming charges in place.

Turkey, which isn’t in the European Union, has been included in the ban by some networks but not others, meaning you won't get charged extra there. 

Outside of the European Union, the usual regulations apply, so if you are travelling to locations such as the USA, China or the UAE, be sure to check with your network operator before you go.

The cost of roaming in non-European countries may also be set to rise eve more soon, as the government has announced plans for a 20 per cent VAT charge on roaming costs - although there’s no official start date for this just yet.

After the UK leaves the European Union in 2019, we may no longer be covered by the ban on extra roaming charges, with opinion currently split on what action networks will take.

Overall, though, the best course of action should always be to check with your phone network before you travel to make sure you won’t get charged extra.

Whichever network you’re with, it's key to remember that you don’t magically get extra allowance on your phone contract when outside of the UK.

Wherever you are, you'll be using your usual allowance of data, minutes and texts from your contract when roaming around Europe. So if you leave the UK without any data left on your monthly allowance, you will still be charged to use data on your phone, it just won't be as much as it was before.

You should continue to keep a close eye on your contract allowances and if you're on Pay As You Go it's worth making sure you're still topped up.

What has the technology industry had to say about the change? 

 Adrian Baschnonga, Global Lead Telecommunications Analyst, EY 

“As the final step in a decade long process, the abolition of roaming surcharges is great news for consumers. The era of ‘bill shock’ for phone users travelling in the EU is drawing to a close.

“However, the prospect of usage caps on unlimited data plans could create some measure of confusion for users. As a result, operators must ensure they communicate clearly with their customers to help build trust in the new system.”

“Fair usage policies designed to prevent commercial or consumer abuse of the new rules are unavoidably complex. Although they offer operators some flexibility, monitoring travellers and their phone usage will no doubt be burdensome for operators.

“The fact that mobile prices, service usage and travel patterns vary significantly across European countries means that the impact on operators will also vary. Smaller mobile providers, or those hosting a large number of travellers, may face a greater challenge than their competitors.”

“Achieving political and industry consensus on roaming regulation has proved challenging, particularly in recent months. Regulators face an ongoing task to ensure that operators comply with the new rules, with domestic mobile prices likely to be a key area of scrutiny.”

Nick Shaw, Vice President & General Manager EMEA, Norton by Symantec:

“Accessing personal information on unprotected public Wi-Fi is like broadcasting your personal smartphone or laptop screen on TV – everything you do on a website or through an app could potentially be exposed.

When a Wi-Fi hotspot is unsecured, that means your data is unprotected. Anybody on the same network could spy on your information. Unfortunately, even supposedly secured, password-protected public networks aren’t necessarily safe for use. There’s no guarantee that the person who set up the Wi-Fi network turned on all the security features or regularly updates patches.

Without a virtual private network (VPN) to encrypt your information, your social media logins, bank account credentials, and credit card numbers could be stolen easily. If you do decide to use free public Wi-Fi, be careful about the types of sites you visit. It’s safest not to log in to any sites that require a password, because hackers could be using software kits to capture yours. Avoid any websites that hold any of your sensitive information, like banking sites or transactional sites on which you store credit card information.”

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro, and has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and ITProPortal.