In recent days, O2 and EE have introduced new costs when people go on holiday to the continent from the UK. Other networks still have their free roaming plans in place – for now.
The new charges come at almost the exact same time as the five-year anniversary of Brexit, and they are the direct result of the UK leaving the EU.
Until now, customers had been protected by European regulations known as “Roam Like at Home”. As the name suggests, that meant they were entitled to the same coverage and allowances that they have on their contract when in their home country, wherever they were within the EU.
But those same regulations were not kept in place when Brexit went through, and so they no long cover people in the UK.
While networks had initially committed that they would not change their prices, and that customers would therefore be able to use their phones as normal, that now appears to be changing.
What are the roaming charges now?
Until this week, the roaming charges were they same as they were before Brexit – that is to say, there was none. The networks had said they had no plans to change the prices, and it had stayed that way.
Customers therefore were able to use their phones as if they were at home, even if they were on holiday. The EU regulations include some specific rules about what counts as “fair use” – customers on unlimited contracts might have some limits, and phone networks can charge extra if people are spending more time roaming than at home – but the rules mostly meant that it did not matter where you were in Europe.
That is still the case on other networks such as Three and Vodafone, which have not yet announced any changes.
Even with the changes, the charges have not increased for existing customers on EE, only new ones and those upgrading their contracts. So for the most part it is the same, for now.
What changes have been announced?
First came O2’s announcement, which it said was intended to promote “fair use”. It measn that customers will be charged £3.50 for each gigabyte they use, if they go over a limit of 25 gigabytes.
On EE, the changes will only cover new or upgraded contracts that are signed from 7 July, and will not go into effect until January.
When they do, customers will be charged £2 per day when they are roaming, or they can also buy a 30-day Roam Abroad Pass, which will cost £10. That then entitles people to the same allowance of texts, calls and data they would have at home.
The other networks have not announced any changes.
What protections are there against phone networks increasing prices?
There is nothing in law to stop phone companies from making such changes. But the government did bring in legislation that looks to ensure that customers aren’t hit with unexpectedly high bills.
That limit is set at £45 per monthly billing period. When customers reach it, they will be cut off from their services and have to ask to get back on, and they must also be informed when they are reaching 80 per cent and 100 per cent of their data usage.