Using your cell phone in Europe is about to get cheaper, as rules introduced by the European Union designed to control the cost of making calls and using mobile data abroad take force from the 1st of July.
The drop in prices is pretty drastic. The maximum cost per minute for an outbound call goes from €0.24 to €0.19, whilst receiving inbound calls has gone from €0.07 to €0.05. The price you pay for a megabyte will drop from €0.45 to €0.20. The cost of sending text messages has also dropped, going from €0.08, to €0.06. Receiving texts remains free.
If you’re based in a EU country that doesn’t use the Euro as its national currency – such as the UK, Poland and Denmark – the cost in your local currency will match that of the fixed Euro price.
The caps aren’t in effect outside of the European Union, meaning that calls, texts and data are subject to the prices set by your phone provider. This includes European Economic Area countries such as Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.
The move comes as part of a European Union initiative to make it cheaper to use your cell phone abroad. Roaming fees are set to be eliminated entirely in 2015, with consumers being able to choose from a local provider for their data services when they touch-down in a country.
It also means that phone bill horror stories – such as that of the math teacher who was billed £2,600 ($4400) for downloading a Neil Diamond album – will be a thing of the past.
What if you’re not from an EU member country, but visiting a country that is? What if you’re going on holiday to a country outside of the EU? Here’s how you can minimize your data bill when going abroad, and how to set things right when you get a huge bill.
Avoiding A Nasty Bill
Firstly, call your phone company and arrange a cap to be set on your bill. This allows you to set an artificial limit on how much you can spend on your phone. This is handy if you accidentally turn data roaming on, ‘butt-dial’ a number, or simply have your phone stolen and someone starts making calls with it.
Then, before you go abroad, make sure you turn off data roaming. Every phone has this ability, including BlackBerry, Android, iOS and Firefox OS. Just have a look in your settings.
If you’re desperate for mobile Internet whilst on vacation, you might want to consider getting a local SIM card. If you’re traveling through multiple countries, some companies offer international SIM cards with low-cost data for a variety of countries. Here’s my colleague Angela Alcorn explaining her SIM card strategy.
If you don’t need to be constantly connected, but want to check Facebook every now and again, just stick to the WiFi in hotels, cafes and bars. Be warned that some countries – such as Italy, until recently – require you to give some form of ID (usually a passport number) in order to log on.
And if you’re concerned about security whilst using local WiFi hotspots, you might want to consider investing in a VPN service. These often cost as little as $5, and allow you to funnel your network traffic through a secure, encrypted tunnel. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, check out our list of top VPN providers.
When Things Go Wrong
Sometimes, despite our better efforts, we can end up stung with a nasty bill.
I personally know people who used their hotel’s WiFi, only for it to cut out and their phone to fall back on to its mobile data connection. When they got home, they found themselves with bills of hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars.
If this happens to you, don’t worry. Phone companies are – for the most part – pretty reasonable. If you’ve got a large bill that you can’t pay, just speak to them. Plead your case.
Some have been known to reduce exorbitantly large bills as a goodwill gesture. Others are prepared to allow you to repay your bill in monthly installments. Just be honest about your means and the circumstances in which you accumulated this massive bill, be civil, and (if possible) make your case in writing, with your letters sent by recorded post.
Are you looking forward to cheaper calls and data abroad? Ever been stung with a nasty phone bill? Tell me about it. The comments box is below.