Mobile calls and surfing in Europe

Nowadays mobile phones, smart phones or tablets are part of your travel kit and surfing, texting and mobile calls whilst abroad are run of the mill.

But remember that this isn’t managed by your trusted operator, but via a company in the country you are visiting. Mobile calls and surfing abroad is also referred to as roaming and can be costly.

On 15 June 2017 new European regulations took effect as a result of which mobile calls, texts and roaming in another European country* is now charged the same as in Belgium. However, before travelling abroad, remember to check your operator’s specific stipulations. Some providers have managed to evade the lifting of roaming charges. Others apply a ‘policy of reasonable use’. ECC Belgium explains.

Are you travelling outside Europe? Contact your operator to find out which roaming tariffs apply to your country of destination.

No more roaming charges in Europe

On 15 June 2017 you stopped paying roaming charges within Europe. Mobile calls, texts and roaming now costs the same in 28 EU countries*, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein as in Belgium.

But remember, sometimes you might be roaming without being aware of it and will consequently receive an invoice for roaming costs. Discover when.

Good to know: If you are making a mobile call from Belgium to one of these countries you will be charged an international tariff. Your operator can provide further information on this.

There are exceptions

Your contract or prepaid card defines your call credit, number of texts and roaming volume. This also applies abroad, unless your provider decides otherwise.

Note: Some providers apply a ‘policy of reasonable use’. Procedures vary from one operator to another. However, they must all inform you accordingly as soon as you cross the border of a specific country*.

Have you exceeded the credits included in your contract or gone beyond ‘reasonable use’? In that case the following maximum tariffs apply:

 making mobile calls   3,8 cents (+ domestic tariff) / minute
 receiving mobile calls  1,38 cents (+ domestic tariff) /minute
 per text sent  1,2 cents / text
 per text received  0 cents
 per megabyte used  0,9 cents (+ domestic tariff) / megabyte

Entering into a contract with a provider abroad

In principle you can only sign up with an operator abroad if you regularly spend time in the country in question. Minimum two months in a four month period. Are you using your subscription more outside than inside the country in which you entered into a mobile contract during this period? In that case you risk being charged extra by the operator, subject to the maximum tariffs. This does not apply to people who have a valid reason for doing so (Erasmus students, people spending a lot of time abroad for business reasons …)

Be vigilant!

Sometimes you might start roaming without being aware of it due to your device connecting to a non-European cell phone tower, because your mobile device will always connect to the cell tower with the strongest signal. Following are a few typical examples.

  • If you are close to an external border of the EU, the tower with the strongest signal may be located outside EU territory. In which case you will be making calls, texting and accessing the internet via the network of a non-EU provider and will be charged the roaming tariff that your operator applies for that particular country.

    For example, are you in Italy or Austria close to the Swiss border? If so, there is a possibility that your holiday snaps are sent via a Swiss provider and you will be charged accordingly.

  • Not all countries in Europe are part of the EU. Mobile calls from these countries** are still subject to roaming charges. 

  • If you are sailing between various EU countries you also risk having to pay more for mobile use. As soon as a vessel is outside the reach of onshore cell towers your mobile device will connect to a satellite and satellite connections are expensive. Contact your provider for information on relevant tariffs.

You can prevent this from happening by switching off the roaming option in the settings of your device.

A complaint? What happens now?

Your provider has overcharged you? Send a written complaint. You will usually find a complaint form on their website.

Have you received a negative reply? Contact the Telecommunications Ombudsman who will provide free support to resolve your complaint amicably. 

Further questions on roaming? Visit the Your Europe or Belgian BIPT website.

Do you own a second property abroad? And are you now a direct customer of a local provider? Then you will probably want to know whether you can pay your invoice via your Belgian bank account. ECC Belgium provides further information here.

* 28 EU countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France (including French Guyana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Mayotte and La Réunion), Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira), Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain (including the Canary Islands) and Sweden.