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The return of data roaming charges for Brits

Published: in European News by .

UK mobile operators are starting to reintroduce extra fees for customers in Europe.

Not reimposing roaming charges for Brits in Europe was one of the most symbolic Brexit promises — and the latest to be broken.

BT-owned mobile telecoms operator EE became the first to reintroduce roaming charges for new and upgrading customers following Brexit. The move has sparked concerns that its competitors might soon follow suit. So far two other operators, Three and O2, have announced changes to how they treat British customers using mobile data while they are in Europe. 

All three plus Vodafone stated in January that they would not reinstate their European roaming fees after Brexit.

Brits traveling to Europe had grown used to EU free roaming rules, introduced in 2017, which banned mobile telecommunications providers from levying additional roaming charges in the bloc. But Brexit ended this guarantee for U.K. mobile users. The EU-U.K. trade deal encourages cooperation on “the promotion of fair and transparent rates for international mobile roaming,” but doesn’t prevent operators from introducing new charges on cross-border calls and data usage. 

Observers argue Brussels refused to allow U.K. carriers to remain part of EU agreements that cap how much they have to pay other operators when customers roam on these other EU networks, because it considered this to be one of the big perks of its single market.

Other consumer protection provisions not contingent on EU membership but stemming from EU regulations will continue to apply in U.K. law, including a £45 monthly cap on mobile data usage abroad and requirements for mobile operators to inform customers when 80 and 100 percent of their data usage has been reached.

EE customers can still face a hefty bill: From next January, the company plans a £2-a-day levy for travelers who join as new customers or upgrade their phone after July 7 when they travel to 47 destinations (all EU countries except Ireland are on the list). Meanwhile, O2 will charge £3.50 for each gigabyte of data used in the EU over a limit of 25 gigabytes from August 2. Three UK said it would reduce its free data allowance in the EU from 20GB to 12GB. The latter two companies argue these limits would only affect a tiny minority of customers.

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A spokesperson for Vodafone UK said the company does “not currently have any plans to reintroduce roaming charges for Vodafone customers.” In February, the firm reduced its out-of-bundle rate for data usage beyond 25GB, from £3.65 to £3.13 for new and upgrading customers.

Rocio Concha, director of policy and advocacy at the consumers’ organization Which UK, said the U.K. government must seek limits to the cost of roaming for consumers in its trade deal negotiations — but also bring this issue back up with Brussels. “The U.K. and EU must also urgently strike a deal on roaming charges to stop companies chipping away at the roaming benefits customers have become used to and to ensure the high charges consumers used to face do not return,” she said.

This year presents a fresh opportunity as the EU reviews its roaming regulations ahead of their expiration on June 30, 2022.

Maryant Fernández Pérez, senior digital policy officer at BEUC, an umbrella group for 46 consumer organizations across Europe, said. “It is a political decision, but we want the European Commission to reach international deals with third countries to reduce charges and ideally offer ‘roam like you’re at home,’ as we have with countries in the single market,” she said.

Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/data-roaming-charges-united-kingdom-travel-brexit/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

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