When you travel to a foreign country with your mobile phone, you are roaming - your mobile phone company and one in the foreign country work together to keep you connected, so you can make and receive mobile phone calls, write text messages, surf the Web and download content.
However, weak competition among national operators for roaming customers has, at times, led to excessive prices for these services.
The European Commission's first rules to address overcharging in roaming prices came in 2007 - the “Eurotariff” capped maximum prices for phone calls made and received while abroad. These maximum prices apply to all consumers, unless they opt for special packages offered by operators. These rules have since been periodically reviewed and reformed, with further reductions in price caps and automatic protections against data roaming bill shocks.
The results on roaming tariffs speak for themselves:
High premiums for roaming and intra-EU calls are an excessive irritant to business and leisure customers; they are a market distortion with no rational place in a single market – they teach users to fear their phones instead of using them. To tackle this issue, on 11 September 2013, the European Commission adopted a legislative package for a "Connected Continent: Building a Telecoms Single Market" aimed at building a connected, competitive continent and enabling sustainable digital jobs and industries.
The European Parliament and the Council reached provisional political agreement that from 15 June 2017, retail roaming consumption when travelling within the Union will be provided at domestic price. No additional surcharge will exist, on the condition that the wholesale roaming market is adequately reformed before that date.
In the meantime, from 30 April 2016, retail roaming consumption when travelling within the Union will be provided at domestic price plus a small surcharge which represents 25% of the current retail roaming caps for calls made and data, and 33% of the current retail roaming cap for SMS. Retail roaming prices will therefore already decrease considerably next year. This Regulation is still to be formally adopted by the European Parliament and the Council.