Smart mobile phone use from abroad! – roaming regulations

We tend to travel abroad more frequently nowadays and do not like giving up the comfort of using our mobile phone or browsing the internet while on the road. Luckily, mobile telephony abroad, especially in EU member states, has become an accessible and natural convenience for an increasing number of people. However, in the case of foreign mobile telephone use, there are a few key factors to consider in order to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

A significant change is that in most cases, from 15 June 2017, mobile telephone services can be used at domestic prices throughout the European Union. With a few exceptions, service providers cannot charge any excess fees for placing or receiving calls or mobile internet usage, which means that you can use services at the same prices and conditions as you do at home when travelling through other EU member states.

IMPORTANT! EU roaming is not the same as international calls!

It is important to distinguish roaming from international calls. Whilst international calls consist of someone dialling a foreign number from their service provider’s network, in the case of roaming, calls or text messages are placed through a foreign service provider. Therefore the new regulations only concern EU-based roaming services, while the fees and conditions for international calls or to countries outside the EU are still regulated by the individual service providers, therefore, before using such services, it’s always worth gaining information on the fees of the service provider in question.

What cases does free roaming extend to?

  • Service providers are only required to provide roaming services for domestic fees and conditions for temporary travels within the EU. This means that the new conditions only extend to those who have a place of residence in the member state of their service provider (Hungary, in the case of Hungarian service providers) and habitually live there and are merely temporarily visiting other EU member states (for example, during summer vacations or business trips).
  • The roaming usage must adhere to the service provider’s conditions for fair use. These are terms and conditions included in their contract based upon which service providers can monitor the contractual use of roaming services.

When can the service provider charge excess fees for roaming services?

  • The service provider is entitled to monitor roaming habits (based upon presence or distribution), i.e. whether the services are primarily used domestically or abroad. If, based upon the aggregate data of a four-month period, it can be clearly determined that you do not habitually reside in Hungary or typically use your mobile abroad, the service provider will initially inform you of this discrepancy. Following said notice, you have at least two weeks to change your consumer habits or presence in order to fulfil the contractual conditions. Failing to do may result in the service provider charging excess fees from the day of the notice for roaming services.
  • Service providers may request verification on whether the subscriber truly has a residence and habitually resides in the country in question. The service provider is not obliged to provide roaming services at domestic prices if someone takes out a subscription in Hungary, yet lives in a different member state (for example, working or studying there) and typically uses services outside of Hungary, in a different EU member state.
  • Service providers may offer alternative fee packages, which do not fall under the conditions for fair use. It’s possible that in the case of such services, service providers – possibly in lieu for favourable fees – may consider presence or distribution data from two instead of four months when establishing contractual use (which could pose a problem in the case of an extended vacation), or may introduce additional terms and conditions.

In summary: During temporary stays in an EU member state, roaming services can typically be used at normal domestic prices and conditions, yet service providers may charge excess fees if you fail to uphold the contractual terms and conditions. It’s worth gathering detailed information before contracting so you would be aware of your rights and obligations.