The return of surcharges on roaming in Europe for Vodafone customers sees the mobile network provider become the second company to bring back roaming charges since they were largely suspended in June 2017, with EE announcing the return of roaming fees for some customers in the wake of Brexit earlier this year.
Is Brexit the cause of roaming fee return?
Mobile charges were one of many key contested issues in the UK’s Brexit Trade Agreement.
When the Brexit transition period ended on January 1 2021, UK mobile operators were no longer obliged to keep roaming costs free for customers travelling to European counties.
EE, O2, Vodafone and Three all stated last year that they were not planning to make any changes to their roaming policies.
Speaking in June, Rocio Concha, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Which?, said: "As the UK continues to negotiate trade deals, it must use this opportunity to lower the cost of roaming for consumers.
"The UK 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."
How much will Vodafone roaming charges be?
Vodafone roaming fees will affect new customers and those upgrading their contract with the provider from January 6 2022, with existing customers remaining on their current plan to be unaffected by the new charges.
But those joining or upgrading to new Vodafone contracts from next January will see a new flat fee of £2 when using their phone abroad in 49 European locations – unless they are on a Vodafone plan which already includes roaming.
Those travelling to the Republic of Ireland, however, will not face the new roaming charges.
New ‘Europe Zone’ passes will also allow customers to pay £8 for eight days or £15 for 15 days of roaming.
Chief executive officer of Vodafone UK, Ahmed Essam said: “The majority of our customers are not regular roamers.
“Indeed, fewer than half our customers roamed beyond the Republic of Ireland in 2019.
"And the reality is that including roaming – a service that costs us money to provide – in every plan means more than half of our customers are paying for something that they don’t use.
"What’s free for one person usually has to be paid for by someone else.”
Have EE and other providers brought back roaming charges?
EE announced new roaming charges on June 24 in the form of a £2 per day flat fee for customers roaming across 47 European destinations from January 2022.
The flat fee will allow customers to use their plan’s existing minutes, texts and data, with those affected being new customers or those upgrading to EE from July 7 2021.
A spokesperson for EE said the move “will support investment into our UK based customer service and leading UK network.”
They added: “Customers travelling abroad for longer will be able to use a 30-day Roam Abroad Pass.
"Essential plan customers will be able to take the Pass for £10, while Smart or Full Works plans customers are able to include the same pass as part of their plan.”
While announcing changes to its roaming policy, O2 has not exactly reintroduced charges in a similar fashion to EE.
O2 has instead introduced a new fair use cap on data usage – with Pay Monthly users having to pay an additional £3.50 for every gigabyte of data used abroad over a 25GB threshold.
This will took effect from August 2 2021.
The fair use cap on data, while notable for its timing, is a widely accepted practice for mobile operators and one with which many UK customers are familiar when travelling abroad in Europe.
Three, likewise, has altered its Go Roam package – lowering its previous 20GB of fair use data cap to 12GB.
The move will bring Three’s fair use data cap on European roaming in line with that of its international package.
This means that O2 and Three have technically not reintroduced charges – with Vodafone also not following in EE’s footsteps.