UK Operators Will Not Reinstate European Data Roaming Charges

The four main mobile operators in the UK have confirmed that they will not start charging customers to use mobile data in Europe, after the Brexit transition period ends on 1 January.

The confirmation from EE, O2, Vodafone and Three that they had no plans to reinstate roaming charges will come as a relief for British consumers.

It should be noted that the confirmation of no roaming charges applies to both pay monthly customers, SIM-only customers, and pay-as-you-go contracts.

No charges

Until now, it had been unclear if data roaming charges would return for British users, after the Brexit transition period between the UK and Europe ends today on 31 December 2020.

But now the Daily Mail reported that mobile providers EE, O2, Three and Vodafone have all confirmed that they will not start charging UK customers to use mobile data in Europe after 31 December.

“Our customers enjoy inclusive roaming in Europe and beyond, and we don’t have any plans to change this based on the Brexit outcome,” an EE spokesperson was quoted as saying. “So our customers travelling to the EU will continue to benefit from inclusive roaming.”

“We’re committed to providing our customers with great connectivity and value when they travel outside the UK,” O2 reportedly said. “We currently have no plans to change our roaming services across Europe.”

A spokesperson for Vodafone confirmed the company had “no plans to reintroduce roaming charges.”

“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,” said Three UK. “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.”

For certain MVNOs such as Virgin – which offer their services across Europe – there is no specific need to impose roaming charges on customers visiting Europe from the UK, or vice versa.

But smaller operators may need to strike bilateral deals between themselves in order to keep roaming free for their customers.

The Mail reported that the Brexit deal struck last week by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson contains no provisions that would prevent these major service providers from changing their minds and introducing new roaming charges at a later date.

However, the Government reportedly explained, the deal does harbour ‘measures to encourage co-operation on the promotion of fair and transparent rates for international mobile roaming’.

‘It also covers obligations on net neutrality, which fulfils the UK’s dual aims of securing commitments towards an open internet and protecting the safety of users online,’ it added.

Mobile roaming

Prior to 2017, high mobile roaming charges had been an issue for years with British mobile users.

But in 2014 the European Union created regulations so that people could use their existing mobile tarriffs whilst aboard.

Those EU regulations finally went into effect in 2017, which meant UK users were able to make use of their mobile phone minutes, texts and data whilst abroad for no extra charge.

And this arrangement is now set to continue going forward.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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