All four UK’s mobile operators have confirmed that, at least for now, Britons will retain their access to free roaming in the European Union after the UK formally exits the bloc on Thursday, 31 December.
Currently, all citizens of the European Union have access to free mobile roaming across the continent through “Roam Like at Home” which came into effect in June 2017. This means anyone travelling in Europe can use their UK phone and SIM to make calls, send texts and access data for no additional charge. (However, in some cases they’re subject to a cap on data usage.)
Some campaign groups warned that exit from the EU would end this privilege for UK citizens, adding significantly to the costs of holidays and business trips. The pro-Remain Best for Britain campaign calculated that the reintroduction of roaming charges would cost business travellers in Europe up to £778 per month.
The post-Brexit trade deal doesn’t extend the right for UK citizens beyond Thursday. Mobile operators will therefore be free to reintroduce fees for Brits using their phones in Europe.
The UK government has urged providers to charge “transparent and reasonable rates” for roaming and has introduced safeguards to protect travellers from exorbitant mobile bills. These include a £45 a month cap on data roaming charges before customers are required to opt in for further use.
Additionally, Mobile operators must inform customers when they have reached 80% and 100% of their roaming data allowance. They also must take “reasonable steps” top ensure customers aren’t charged for accidental roaming in Northern Ireland, for instance, if their phone connects to a cell tower in the Republic of Ireland.
All four UK networks— EE, O2, Three and Vodafone— have stated they have no current plans to end charge-free roaming in Europe for their customers. However, there is no guarantee that they won’t reintroduce fees later, now that they are permitted to do so.
A spokesperson for 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.”
O2 said: “We’re committed to providing our customers with great connectivity and value when they travel outside the UK. We currently have no plans to change our roaming services across Europe.”
Three said: “Three is the global leader in international roaming and already offers roaming at no extra cost for its customers in over 70 destinations including the US, Australia and New Zealand. We will retain this great customer benefit regardless of Brexit negotiations allowing our customers to continue using their phones when they travel within the EU.”
A spokesperson for Vodafone said the network also doesn’t have plans to introduce roaming charges in the EU.
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