BY JOHN ELLIS, FINANCIAL ADVISOR
We have all heard the horror stories about people receiving hefty phone bills after a trip to the sun. Tens of thousands being billed for downloading and streaming fees. To combat this, a scheme called ‘Roam Like At Home was put in place and the EU renewed the scheme for another 10 years late last year.
The scheme was to lapse on June 30 last but legislation, a follow-up to the 2017 Elimination of Roaming Surcharges was agreed between Parliament and Council, meaning we the consumers would continue to be able to use our mobile phones when travelling abroad in the EU with no additional fees on top of what we already pay at home.
In addition, we will now enjoy the same quality and speed of mobile connection abroad as at home as roaming providers will be obliged to offer the same roaming quality to that provided domestically, if the same conditions are available on the network of the visiting country. For example, it will be illegal to reduce the quality of roaming services by switching the connection from 4G to 3G.
Travellers and people with disabilities will have access to emergency services without any additional charge – whether by call or text message, including the transmission of caller location information. Operators will also have to provide information about the European emergency number 112 with the same rate for calls, texts and data in the EU applying to what we now have in Ireland.
You still need to be on your toes as EU roaming data allowance is considerably lower, so you may have to fork out if you exceed it and flying to a non-EU destination could still come with a hefty roaming tag.
Eoin Clarke commercial director of Switcher.ie said: “The recent EU Roam Like At Home rules will be a respite for many holiday-goers, but it still helps to keep streaming, gaming and Google-mapping to a minimum as data allowance is considerably lower.
“Sky-high charges are more likely in far -lung destinations like Asia, the US and Australia, where charges for calls to home can be over €2 a minute and using the internet can cost more than €5 per MB: though the exact amount depends on your provider and location.”
In order to avoid post holiday blues remember the following:
* Check your data limits if you’re paying for a roaming bundle. It may still have fair usage limits lower than at home, and your provider can apply a data cap . Always check what the fair usage is and set a cap if required.
* Use an eSim, a virtual SIM card that is preinstalled in most newer smartphones. Apps like the GoMo World allows customers to use their eSIM to connect to networks in 160 countries, including the US, Canada and Australia, starting at €3.99 for a mobile plan.
* If your current plan has a low data limit, consider switching to a no-contract, one month SIM with bigger roaming allowances before you head overseas. For example Eir Mobile’s Connect 30 Day plan with 30GB of data for €14.99 a month.
* Who uses voicemail anymore? Maybe you do but receiving voicemail while abroad can cost you even if you don’t listen to it! Switch it off for the duration of your holiday.
* If you’re flying outside the EU consider a ‘pay-as-you-go local SIM when you arrive. You can avail of local deals like unlimited data, calls and texts and while use text, don’t use WhatsApp. If you’re in the EU, because of your lower data limit, always text.
* Switch off your data roaming and use WiFi wherever possible. Connect to free WiFi spots wherever you are but be careful when connecting to public WiFi connection; basic communication only, no online banking or sending sensitive emails.
* If you’re in a far-flung destination and you’re worried about going over your limit, turn off data roaming or turn on aeroplane mode to remind you to limit your usage and disable all app updates as they can swallow large amounts of data in the background.
It’s easy to see how costs could quickly add up when you consider that 1MB of data is only enough to browse one website, Google maps could use 5MB and an hour on Spotify could use 10MB. You could use up your data very fast if you’re not connected to WiFi.