Roaming charges after Brexit: Is your network ending free roaming?

(Pocket-lint) – The UK has left the EU and roaming is now a free-for-all for UK mobile networks who are free to do what they want. 

Prior to 1 January 2021 the UK was still beholden to EU rules, but the benefit was that the EU has had completely free mobile roaming since 2017. Once the UK left, networks were no longer obligated to stick to this. 

The certainty of so-called “surcharge-free” – or free-roaming – has ended. That means that UK citizens can now be charged extra for using their phones in the EU.

Regardless, UK networks maintained during the Brexit transition period that free roaming would be maintained. 

So what’s now happened? 

Those pre-2021 words now look hollow because EE has now introduced a flat £2 daily fee for roaming (for new or revised contracts) while O2 has introduced a 25GB fair use cap across the board, after which there is a £3.50 charge per GB.

Furthermore, Three has reduced its EU fair use cap from 20GB to 12GB to bring it in line with its cap for the rest of the world. 

However, both O2 and Three seemingly have no current plans to introduce more fees, while Vodafone also says it has no plans to change its approach. 

What do the UK’s post-Brexit rules say? 

EU mobile operators are mandated to apply a financial limit for data roaming usage tp €50 euros – this is £45 in the UK. This has remained in place in the new UK legislation, so there’s no change there. Operators are also required to send an alert once you’ve reached 80 per cent and 100 per cent of your own data roaming limit – wherever in the world you are.

The Government has also “retained in UK law” the EU Roaming Regulation that ensures networks must help their customers avoid inadvertent roaming. This will be a key problem in Northern Ireland where, obviously, it is easy to roam onto an Irish Republic network if you have roaming turned on.

However, it can also be an issue in other areas – before roaming was standardised across the EU there were numerous stories about people inadvertently roaming onto French networks on the South coast of England, particularly in Kent. 

What did the UK networks say before 2021? 

Broadly speaking there was a common theme in UK networks’ approach before the end of the Brexit transition period, saying they currently had no plans to change what is on offer. However, the keyword there was “currently”.

EE said: “Our customers enjoy inclusive roaming in Europe and beyond, and we don’t have any plans to change this based on the Brexit outcome. So our customers travelling to the EU will continue to benefit from inclusive roaming.” As we’ve said above, EE has now introduced a flat rate roaming fee. 

Giffgaff said: “We’re committed to providing our members with great connectivity and value when they travel overseas. We currently have no plans to change our roaming services across Europe.”

O2 said: “We’re committed to providing our customers with great connectivity and value when they travel overseas. We currently have no plans to change our roaming services across Europe. We will be working closely with the government and other European operators to try and protect the current arrangements so our customers can continue to enjoy free EU roaming.” O2 has now introduced a 25GB cap across all users visiting the EU, after which there is a £3.50 charge per GB. 

Sky Mobile said: “Sky Mobile customers will continue to be able to use their data plans as they do today, in over 30 European destinations at no extra cost from 1 January 2021.”

Tesco Mobile said: “Tesco Mobile is committed to giving our customers the very best value and service wherever they use their mobile. There are currently no plans to change our Home From Home roaming at no extra cost.”

Three said: “We will look to retain this customer benefit [free roaming] in the EU post-Brexit allowing our customers to continue using their usual allowances when they travel.” Three has now reduced its EU fair use data cap from 20 to 12GB to match the rest of the world. 

Virgin Media said: “We currently have no plans to change our Roam Like Home offering. Virgin Media mobile customers can continue to enjoy their inclusive data, minutes and texts while abroad in 43 European destinations. Should we need to make any changes to our roaming services, we’ll let our customers know in advance.”

Vodafone said: “We do expect competition will continue to drive good value for customers.” Vodafone has now confirmed that there will be no change to roaming at present. 

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Writing by Dan Grabham.

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