Only one of Britain’s major mobile phone operators has made a commitment to retain the scrapping of roaming charges after Britain leaves the European Union – with the others saying the decision depends on government negotiations.
From Thursday, travellers will pay no roaming charges when abroad within Europe as extra charges for making calls, sending texts and using data abroad become illegal under European law.
Only Three, which introduced the scrapping of roaming charges in most European countries in August last year – 10 months before the legal order – has pledged to keep the lower charges once Britain is no longer part of the union. O2, Vodafone and EE said they would have to await the outcome of the government’s Brexit negotiations.
Meanwhile, it emerged that even while Britain is subject to the EU rules, some mobile phone companies will not allow their customers the same speed or amount of data as they would enjoy at home while roaming in Europe.
A spokeswoman for Three said: “We’re committed to retaining Feel At Home [its roaming deal] in the EU regardless of Brexit.”
But a spokesman for O2 said: “We will be engaging with the government and Ofcom to discuss what may happen in the future once the UK officially leaves the EU.”
A spokeswoman for Vodafone said: “It’s too soon to assess the implications of Brexit on roaming regulation.”
EE said it was “too early to tell”, adding that its offering would depend on any deal the UK government made, while Tesco Mobile said it would “strive to ensure that Home From Home is a permanent offering”.
A leaked paper, drawn up earlier this month by the European parliament’s committee on industry, research and energy, and endorsed by MEPs, said that the new rules would not automatically apply to Britain post-Brexit. It states that “regulation (EU) No 531/2012 on roaming will no longer apply with respect to the UK, impacting business and other travellers to and from the UK” and that “transitional arrangements will be necessary”.
Even under the new regulations, calls made from the UK to other countries in Europe will still be charged at a higher price. Under EU laws, travellers will only be able to “roam” from their home country. This means they won’t be allowed to regularly use a SIM card from a different country in Britain to avoid overseas call charges.
Some smartphone users will not be able to use their full data requirement while roaming, even after Thursday. Tesco Mobile said customers who have a data package of more than 12GB would only be able to use up to 12GB while they are away – the equivalent of downloading just three HD films.
O2 said it currently has only 3G agreements with overseas networks and is “testing and working” with roaming partners to bring 4G overseas.