After Brexit came into effect on 1 January 2021, mobile phone providers in the UK were no longer legally required to offer their customers free roaming in the EU. In the EU, roaming charges were scrapped in 2017.
It has been announced by two of the UK’s biggest phone networks that EU roaming charges will be reintroduced for customers, whereas many others have remained committed to EU inclusive roaming.
This is what you need to know.
The company announced that it would be introducing a £2 charge per day to access your regular allowance of texts, data and minutes when roaming in 47 European countries.
This change will only impact new and upgrading customers who took out a plan with EE after 7 July 2021. These charges were originally scheduled to be released in January 2022, but the company has since delayed the rollout until 3 March 2022.
For EE customers which have a plan with Smart Benefits, you’ll be able to choose the EE Roam Abroad pass as a Smart Benefit, and will therefore not have to pay the £2 daily charge. Alternatively, customers can take Roam Abroad as an add-on to your plan at any time for £10 a month instead of the £2 daily charge.
The announcement came after EE claimed in 2020 that roaming charges wouldn’t be reintroduced, stating: “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 going on holiday and travelling in the EU will continue to enjoy inclusive roaming.”
EE is run by BT, which also owns Plusnet Mobile, so customers with those providers could also see similar changes.
Similarly to EE, Vodafone will also soon be charging its customers £2 a day to access their texts, data and minutes.
This change will impact new and upgrading customers who took out their contract with Vodafone after 21 August 2021. If you signed up with the provider before that date, you won’t yet be affected by the new fees.
The new fees are set to be introduced from 26 January 2022. If you have opted for an Xtra plan with Vodafone, you will not have to pay the new charge as it will already be covered by the cost of your monthly fee.
Vodafone has also said: “We’re not making any changes to VOXI, Pay As You Go plans, Talkmobile or Vodafone Basics at this time.”
At the beginning of September last year, it was announced that not only was it reintroducing roaming charges, it would also be dropping its Go Roam benefits which would also affect those travelling to locations like the United States and Australia.
Three customers will have to pay £2 per day to access their texts, data and minutes in EU countries, with the cost rising to £5 per day in other previous Go Roam destinations. The Republic of Ireland and the Isle of Man are both excluded from these changes.
The changes are set to take effect on 23 May 2022, and will impact new and upgrading customers. If you signed up for a new contract, or you renewed your existing contract, by 1 October 2021, you won’t be affected by these changes yet.
A Three spokesperson said: “The new charge ensures customers are clear on what they will pay when using their phone in another country and only those who roam will pay for the service.
“It will also ensure that we can continue investing in our UK network.”
Virgin Mobile and O2
Virgin Media O2, which is the company that owns both the Virgin Mobile and O2 networks, announced that it will not be reintroducing EU roaming charges.
In a statement, the company said that “analysis of rates from other providers suggests that charges could easily add up to over £100 for a family of four using their phones every day during a two-week break in Europe”.
Gareth Turpin, Chief Commercial Officer, Mobile, at Virgin Media O2, said: “We’re starting the year by giving our customers some certainty: we will not be reintroducing roaming fees in Europe for customers on O2 or Virgin Mobile.
“Unlike all the other major mobile networks who are bringing back roaming fees, we will not be following suit. With many Brits now looking to plan a trip abroad, we’ve got our customers covered and extra roaming charges will be one less thing to worry about.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson responded to the announcement from Virgin, tweeting: “I welcome the decision by @VirginMedia and @O2 to keep roaming free, meaning UK citizens can still use their mobile data, calls and texts across Europe with no extra charges.”
On 9 August 2021, the official Sky Twitter account told its followers that it had no plans to reintroduce EU roaming charges.
The company tweeted: “We’re said it before and we’ll say it again…
“Sky Mobile customers will not be charged roaming charges in EU countries and will be able to continue to use their data, call and text allowances as they do in the UK.”
On the Tesco Mobile website, under the “roaming and international” section, the provider states: “If you’re travelling to a Home From Home [European] destination, calling or texting UK mobiles and landlines or using data will be taken from your monthly allowance.
“Calling and texting between other Home From Home destinations is also within your allowance.
“There are no changes to our Home From Home service due to Brexit. You can still use your data, minutes and texts in Europe as you would at home.
“We have no current plans to re-introduce roaming charges in European countries following the UK’s departure from the EU on 1 January 2021. If anything changes, we’ll contact all our customers to let them know.”
Giffgaff has also not announced any changes to its EU roaming charges.
A spokesperson said: "We here at giffgaff are aware of some telcos re-introducing roaming charge changes to those travelling from the UK to the EU.
“At present, we have no immediate plans to reintroduce roaming charges to our members (what we call our customers) travelling to the EU."
The iD Mobile website has not been updated with any information regarding the reintroduction of EU roaming.
The site states: “All iD Mobile plans come with inclusive EU roaming.
“This feature lets you roam like home in 50 destinations throughout the EU, EEA and beyond. The minutes, texts and data you use simply come out of your remaining monthly allowances.”
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