What is roaming?
We can talk about roaming in point of phone calls, SMS messages and mobile broadband.
In case of phone calls practically every call made by or received by the consumer with his/her domestic mobile phone service staying abroad is qualified as roaming. In case the consumer is abroad and uses his/her domestic service the service provider bills his/her calls as roaming, no matter where they are aimed at – home, to the country where the consumer is staying or to a country different from the previous ones – or where they are coming from.
SMS messages sent or received abroad with our domestic service and the use of our domestic mobile broadband service abroad are also qualified as roaming services.
How are the prices of roaming services set?
The price of services can vary for each provider of course, but the maximum of these prices providers can set for the use of roaming services and also other rules on roaming prices and services. It is important however that these rules are applicable only for the Member States of the European Union and for Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein respectively, that is for phone calls received or made from outside of the Union or the three other states mentioned, the rules of the regulation cannot be applied, in such cases the rules of those other states concerned have to be applied.
What can the maximum price of services be?
The first important thing is that the regulation determines only the maximum of the prices, from which the service providers can deviate downwards. The second thing is that the maximum prices are specified in euro so in non-euro countries the additional charges arising from the exchange affects the final price as well. Besides it has to be taken in account that the prices determined in the regulation are net prices so sales tax has to be added in each state.
Are these maximum prices fixed?
No, the regulation prescribes the reduction of the maximum prices at a specific rate – practically annually. The latest reduction was on 1st July 2014. Currently, service providers in Hungary are allowed to bill a maximum price of 74,4 HUF/minute for making roaming calls and 19,5 HUF/minute for receiving roaming calls. That was the last price reduction prescribed by the regulation have to be applied until 30th June 2017.
What is the unit of account for these prices?
In case of making calls, consumers have to pay for the first 30 seconds irrespectively of the length of the call, and after the 30th second the unit of billing is one second. When receiving calls the unit of billing is one second from the start of the call.
Are the rules also applicable for SMS messages?
Yes, the regulation prescribes the prices for sending and receiving short messages too. At present the maximum price for sending roaming SMS messages is 23,5 HUF, receiving messages is free of charge. This price must be applied from 1st July 2014 for roaming messages and according to the regulation this price will change at the same rate as prices of phone calls (meaning, until 2017 the price last reduced in 2014 will remain applicable).
What is unintentional roaming?
We can talk about unintentional roaming when we use a mobile service at home with a roaming tariff without knowing that. This can occur near the borders of the country where our mobile phone may switch over to a foreign provider. This can happen because that specific area is not covered or only covered partly by the Hungarian provider, or because the signal of the foreign provider is stronger. The easiest way to avoid paying the higher roaming prices for the services used at home is to change the network selection method from automatic to manual; this way we can prevent our phone to automatically switch over to another service provider’s network. Areas affected with unintentional roaming can be found on the following link of the National Media- and Infocommunications Authority’s (Authority) webpage:
Roaming and mobile broadband
In case of mobile broadband the providers still have the obligation to set a monthly data limit for roaming. Providers can apply various methods – a limit based on the data usage or on a specified sum – and they can also provide the choice for consumers between various limits. If the consumer does not choose from the offered options then the automatic limit is 50 Euros, meaning that by default the invoice the consumer has to pay for roaming mobile broadband cannot be over 50 Euros. The upper limit applicable for roaming mobile broadband is 78,3 HUF/megabytes from 1st July 2014 and that will be lowered at the same rate as the call and SMS tariffs. The unit of billing for data usage has to be kilobytes.
How do I know how much is left from the limit?
It is an obligation for providers to warn their consumers when they reach the 80% of the limit set for them. This warning can be done by SMS, e-mail or by a pop-up window and the providers must grant the opportunity for their consumers to ask for the omission of that warning.
Providers also have to warn their consumers when they exceed their limit. In both cases the warning has to contain additional information on how the consumer can ask for the continuation of the service and on the costs of the data traffic over the limit. In case the consumer does not ask for the continuation of the service the service provider must cancel it immediately. After this the service provider can only bill for roaming mobile broadband usage if the consumer asks for the continuation or if she/he wants the service to be restarted.
I can only use roaming service at my original provider?
No. The regulation gives the opportunity for consumers to use the roaming services of a provider other than their inland one. They can do it by using the roaming plan of another inland provider, or by choosing the most convenient plan from the offers of the destination country’s providers. The fact that changing roaming provider is free of charge is also favorable for consumers.