EU roaming is relevant for the users of smartphones, mobile phones and tablets. Roaming charges are incurred for incoming and outgoing calls, SMS and MMS and for all Internet services: use, download or update apps, download websites and so on. Of course, even the most widely used applications like WhatsApp or Facebook are affected. From a technical and legal point of view, uniform EU roaming conditions apply in the 28 EU Member States as well as in Switzerland, Norway and in dwarf and city states such as Monaco or San Marino.
Regulation of roaming charges in the EU has so far failed because of the opposition of the big telephone companies. With the now adopted EU decision, the cost structure will be harmonized throughout Europe for the first time. Until 15 June 2017, the roaming charges will be canceled. As an intermediate step, the first cost reductions and new regulations will enter into force on 01.05.2016. The receipt of SMS in other EU countries is already free of charge.
However, there are two limitations as of June 2017:
Mobile operators may continue to charge roaming surcharges to end users if the user exceeds a limit to be determined (fair use limit). With this measure, on the one hand, a misuse and the permanent roaming, for example, the purchase of a cheaper SIM card abroad and use of this SIM card in Germany or if the customer is permanently abroad, but one in his and for his Home country completed contract uses, be prevented. On the other hand, mobile operators may be subject to surcharges where they can demonstrably not cover their costs of providing regulated roaming services and can demonstrate that this has an impact on domestic prices. If such evidence has been provided by a mobile telecommunications provider, the national regulatory authorities may, upon application, allow the relevant mobile operator to charge surcharges for cost recovery exceptionally.
The EU Commission is currently working on the corresponding regulations for the so-called fair use limit. These should be set by 15/12/2016 and be associated with corresponding transparency requirements for end-users. With effect from 15 June 2017, regulated EU roaming services are expected to cost the same - up to a certain limit - as domestic.
If mobile operators do not make use of this option within the scope of their regulated tariffs, their end customers can fully use their domestic tariff abroad as well.