UK customers of Vodafone and EE will get a temporary reprieve from European roaming charges as technical problems postpone the introduction of post-Brexit fees.
Vodafone announced last summer that it would reimpose roaming fees in the EU from Thursday, 6 January. But now it says it needs more time to test the system and will instead roll out the charges at the end of January.
A spokesperson for the mobile network said: "We have pushed back the introduction of roaming charges to the end of January, giving time for further testing to ensure the best possible experience for customers purchasing our £1 per day bundles. Until then, customers will continue to be able to roam without charges.”
The £1 daily fee only applies to 8- and 15-day bundles. Typically, Vodafone will charge customers £2 per day to use their call, text, and data allowances in European destinations.
EE also planned a January return of roaming charges in Europe. Unspecified technical delays have now pushed the launch to 3 March 2022. EE will similarly charge travellers £2 per day to use their phones abroad.
Ben Wood, chief analyst at CCS Insight and founder of the Mobile Phone Museum, said overhauling the billing systems for mobile networks is “always risky.”
“The backlash and negative publicity for any network operator that does not get it right would be immense if a customer ended up with an eye-watering roaming bill,” he told the BBC.
"My guess is that rather than rushing out a change, the operators are delaying the introduction to be absolutely sure everything is working.”
Residents of the EU have enjoyed free roaming across the bloc since 2017. The UK’s exit from the European Union on 31 December 2020 ended UK residents’ entitlement to “Roam Like at Home.” Instead, the government urged mobile operators to charge “transparent and reasonable rates” and has set up loose guardrails, including the requirement for text alerts when users near a £45 monthly cap and an opt-in barrier for spending above that level.
During the Brexit transition period, all four major mobile providers said they had no plans to reintroduce roaming charges. But just months after the formal withdrawal from the European Union, EE, Vodafone, and Three announced they would reimpose the fees.
Three—which will also charge travellers £2 per day for European roaming—won’t introduce the fees until 23 May.
The fourth mobile operator, O2, hasn't yet announced a return of EU roaming charges.
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