Roaming After Brexit: Will EU roaming charges return after the UK leaves the EU?
Will EU roaming charges return after Brexit? It’s one of the many, many questions that have been thrown up by the decision to leave the EU, and it’s an issue that holidaymakers and people travelling for work will have to confront once March 29 swings around. It’s been complicated by the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, and furthermore, with different mobile networks taking different stances, it appears that not all consumers will be affected equally. Read on for everything we know about roaming after Brexit.
Roaming After Brexit: Deal or no deal?
June 15 2017 feels like a very long time ago. That’s the day EU roaming fees were scrapped, and we’ve been able to use our phones abroad without being hit with extortionate additional charges ever since. It has been great. Fast-forward 19 months though, and there’s a chance EU roaming fees could make a comeback.
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In the event of a deal
If the UK leaves the EU with a deal − a scenario that is far from guaranteed − EU roaming charges won’t return until at least December 31 2020, which is when the Brexit transition period (also known as the ‘Implementation Period’) is due to end. However, there have been suggestions that this could be extended to 2022.
“In the likely event of a deal, surcharge-free roaming would continue to be guaranteed during the Implementation Period,” the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has explained.
“Following the Implementation Period the arrangements for roaming, including surcharges, would depend on the outcome of the negotiations on the Future Economic Partnership.”
In the event of a no-deal Brexit
However, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the government has admitted that Brits will once again face huge roaming charges when travelling within the European Union. In a note published alongside draft legislation entitled the Mobile Roaming (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, the government admitted current arrangements would not be sustainable, should Britain crash out without a withdrawal agreement in place (via Metro).
The note says that lobbyists for the mobile industry worked hard to ensure Brits would still be able to make calls, send texts and consume data without incurring extra costs, but no agreement could be reached with EU operators.
“In the event that we leave the EU without a deal, the costs that EU mobile operators would be able to charge UK operators for providing roaming services would no longer be regulated after March 2019,” the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport says.
“This would mean that surcharge-free roaming when you travel to the EU could no longer be guaranteed. This would include employees of UK companies travelling in the EU for business.
“However, the government would legislate to ensure that the requirements on mobile operators to apply a financial limit on mobile data usage while abroad is retained in UK law. The limit would be set at £45 per monthly billing period, as at present (currently €50 under EU law).”
However, as we’ll explain in the following section, some UK mobile operators are planning to strike − or have already struck − their own deals with mobile operators in the EU, in order to keep the current surcharge-free arrangement in place.
Roaming After Brexit: What have the mobile networks said?
As mentioned above, some mobile networks have already committed to keeping EU roaming charges, regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU with or without a deal. And yes, that means it might be time to start considering switching mobile operators.
“Leaving without a deal would not prevent UK mobile operators making and honouring commercial arrangements with mobile operators in the EU − and beyond the EU − to deliver the services their customers expect, including roaming arrangements,” the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
“The availability and pricing of mobile roaming in the EU would be a commercial question for the mobile operators. As a consequence, surcharge-free mobile roaming in the EU may not continue to be standard across every mobile phone package from that point.
“Roaming may also be offered with different terms and conditions. This might affect the amount of calls that you can make, texts you can send and data you can consume, including applying limits that are less than the amount available in your bundle when you’re in the UK.”
Here’s what the UK’s major mobile networks have said:
Roaming After Brexit: Roaming charges on Three
“Leave or Remain? It’s OK. With Go Roam you’ll still be able to use your phone in the EU as you do now, after 29 March,” Three has said.
Roaming After Brexit: Roaming charges on O2
“We currently have no plans to change our roaming services across Europe,” says O2. “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 once Britain officially leaves the EU.”
Roaming After Brexit: Roaming charges on EE
“Our customers enjoy great value products and controls offering inclusive roaming in Europe and beyond, and we don’t have any plans to change these offers,” EE says. “We are working closely with government on this and hope Brexit negotiations will help ensure that UK operators can continue to offer low prices to our customers.”
Roaming After Brexit: Roaming charges on Vodafone
“It’s too soon to assess the implications of Brexit on roaming regulation, however, we expect competition will continue to drive good value for customers,” says Vodafone.
Roaming After Brexit: Roaming charges on Sky Mobile
“Sky Mobile has no plans or intention to increase prices for customers at this time,” says Sky Mobile.
Roaming After Brexit: Roaming charges on Tesco Mobile
“There are no plans to change free roaming in Europe for our customers but we are monitoring the situation and will of course inform customers if any changes are going to be made,” says Tesco Mobile.
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