22 Jan 2021

Mobile Operators Promise ‘No Change’ to Data Roaming

Although Brexit is only just starting to show some real impact, there is one issue that remains uncertain for mobile phone users. The UK’s trade deal, which came into effect on the 1st January, does not rule out the possibility of additional costs for UK customers using their mobile phones in EU countries. Instead, it says that it will encourage operators to have “transparent and reasonable rates” for roaming.

So, even though the four main mobile operators in the UK have confirmed that they will not reinstate European data roaming charges, all operators are open to implement roaming charges in the future if they want to. While many clearly have deals in place to prevent charges increasing straight away at the start of 2021, there is no guarantee that they will be able to maintain these agreements indefinitely.

European roaming charges

Since 2017, UK consumers have been able to use the minutes, texts and data included on their mobile phone tariffs when travelling in the EU with no additional charges – and so have any visitors coming from the EU to the UK. This is known as “roaming” or “roam like at home”.

Of course, there are limits imposed – but as long as you use your mobile phone more at home than abroad, you are considered to be roaming.

Before the roaming rules changed, using a mobile phone in Europe was expensive, with cases of people returning from trips to find extortionate bills waiting for them.

Customer safeguarding

In summary, the guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway has now ended. The government is advising travellers heading for EU countries to check their mobile phone provider’s roaming charges to avoid any nasty surprises.

However, a new law has been brought in to safeguard consumers – capping mobile data charges at £45. Once you reach £45, you need to elect to spend more, so that you can continue using the internet while travelling. Your phone operator will tell how you can do this, and the charges you will face.

Legislation also states that operators must inform customers to when they have reached 80% and 100% of their data allowance.