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EE to Introduce Mobile Roaming Charges in Europe in January

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Mobile operator EE will become the first network to reintroduce roaming charges in Europe, a year after Britons lost their entitlement to the EU’s ‘Roam Like at Home’ arrangement.

Customers joining or upgrading with EE from 7 July 2021 will face a £2 daily charge to use their mobile data allowance in 47 European countries from January 2022. UK customers will continue to use their phones for free in the Republic of Ireland.

To limit these costs, customers travelling to Europe can buy a £10 pass to use their home tariff abroad for 30 days.

The change comes just months after EE, part of the BT Group, reassured customers that it had “no plans” to reintroduce roaming charges. But as we warned at the time, that pledge has been short-lived. 

Since 2017, residents of the EU have benefited from free roaming across the bloc. They’re able to make calls, send texts and use their mobile data for no additional charge. The only limits are a “fair use” clause, which sometimes caps data usage and prevents customers from taking out a mobile contract in one country then using it year-round in another.

Britons lost this privilege when the UK formally left the EU on 31 December 2020. In its place is the government’s urging that mobile operators charge “transparent and reasonable rates” and a series of loose safeguards.

For instance, providers must put a £45 monthly cap on EU roaming charges, at which point the operator has to alert the customer and ask them to opt-in for more spending. Operators must also take “reasonable steps” to ensure customers in Northern Ireland aren’t charged for accidental roaming when their phones connect to a mast in the Republic of Ireland. 

Beyond that, EU roaming charges are left at the discretion of the operator. EE has already decided to reimpose them.

EE said that reintroducing the charges would “support investment into our UK based customer service and leading UK network.”

Several news organisations have misleadingly reported that O2 is also reintroducing mobile roaming fees in Europe. However, it’s merely adding a “fair use” data cap of 25GB per month, to take effect 2 August 2021, and won’t charge customers more to use their phones in Europe within this allowance. Beyond 25GB, a charge of £3.50 for every GB of data will be levied. The change will only affect the fraction of customers whose UK data allowance is above 25GB.

These data caps abroad aren’t new: O2’s rivals already had them, as permitted under the Roam at Home’s fair use policy. From next month, Three will be reducing its existing fair use limit of 20GB per month to 12GB.

O2, Three and Vodafone continue to offer free roaming in Europe—for now.

Lauren Smith
Lauren Smith

Lauren Smith has worked as a journalist and copywriter for most of the last decade, covering technology, energy, and consumer rights, in the US and UK.

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