Mobile telephony and internet: how to prevent your bill from exploding when you are abroad?

Calls and SMS to the European Union: capped prices

Since May 15, 2019recalls the Ministry of the Economy, calls or SMS sent by individuals from the country of origin to another country of the European Union (EU) are capped at:

  • 19 cents €/minute (price excluding VAT) for calls
  • 6 cents (price excluding VAT) by SMS.

Calls and texts in Europe: no overcharging

In the European Economic Area (EEA)(1)overbillings have disappeared since June 15, 2017 and rates are now equal to national rateswithin the limit of what is authorized by your subscription and a “reasonable” use.

When you are roaming, the absence of overcharging applies:

  • to calls made to France but also to calls made to any country in the EEA (including the country visited)
  • to calls received from France but also from any EEA country
  • to SMS sent to France but also the SMS sent to any EEA country (including the country visited)
  • for the use ofmobile internet (see details below).

On the other hand, the absence of overbilling does not apply to calls and SMS sent from an EEA country destined for a non-member country of this zone. These communications may be billed to you outside the package depending on your operator and the offer subscribed to.

Finally, to benefit from this absence of over-billing, your trips must be punctual. If on a four month period, the volume of your roaming consumption exceeds that of your national consumption, your operator may ask you to clarify the situation. You then have 14 days to justify your use. Once this time has passed, your operator may charge you additional roaming charges.

Operators’ obligations

Beyond the pricing aspects, operators have transparency and customer protection obligations. They have the obligation to send their customers an information message on the tariffs of voice and SMS communications each time a user finds himself in a situation of roaming abroad, as well as on the tariffs of the mobile internet as soon as it is used while roaming for the first time in a country.

Mobile Internet in Europe: normal access with exceptions

As with calls and SMS, mobile internet must also be accessible while roaming in the EEA as at home. The operators are not authorized to restrict the use of data and you must be able to access, under normal conditions, the volume included in your package.

However, operators can define a limit for using mobile internet outside the national territory in three cases:

  • for the unlimited plans
  • for the packages deemed particularly generous on mobile internet : it is considered to be in this case when the price excluding VAT of the package, divided by the volume of mobile internet in gigabytes included in the package, is less than €1.50/GB
  • for the prepaid offers.

Like calls and texts, the absence of overbilling of internet consumption while roaming applies within the framework of reasonable use defined by the operator.

Conversely, internet use while roaming deemed “abnormal” and which could therefore lead to the possible application of over-billing, is strictly regulated:

  • the operator must have observed the uses of his client for at least four months
  • specific criteria must have been met to characterize the “abusive or abnormal” nature of the customer’s consumption
  • the operator must have alerted his client
  • if the customer’s profile is not restored within 15 days and an over-invoicing is applied, the latter is strictly supervised.

Outside Europe, how are we billed?

Lroaming at national rates does not apply to countries outside the European Economic Area. It is therefore advisable to be particularly vigilant about the rates charged by your operator.

However, the operators have the obligation, as within the EEA, to keep you informed of the prices applied as soon as you cross a border.

Furthermore, regarding the use ofmobile internet while roaming outside the European Economic Areaoperators have an obligation to cap overcharging. The ceiling is by default set at €50 excluding tax (unless another ceiling has been agreed by the customer with the operator).

A warning message must be sent to the user as soon as he reaches 80% of the cap . Once this ceiling has been reached, downloading while roaming is locked by the operator, unless expressly requested by the user.

Please note that this mechanism for capping overbilling does not apply to voice and SMS services.

(1) The European Economic Area (EEA) includes the following countries: Germany, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Spain, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

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Mobile telephony and internet: how to prevent your bill from exploding when you are abroad?

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