Brexit was finalised on the 1st of January 2021, and since then many customs agreements and trade deals have had their conditions altered. The effects on British trade have been substantial. So how will this affect roaming charges with the EU?
Does Brexit affect Roaming?
The UK's new trade deal with the EU as a result of Brexit has now come into force, does not say that the ban on additional roaming charges will continue.
It says that both sides will encourage operators to have "transparent and reasonable rates" for roaming.
That means that mobile operators will be able to implement roaming charges if they wish to.
It has already passed legislation that will provide some safeguards for consumers:
- A £45-a-month limit on the amount that customers could be charged for using mobile data abroad before having to opt into further use
- Requirements for customers to be informed when they have reached 80% and 100% of their data allowance
- Operators would have .to take "reasonable steps" to avoid customers being charged for accidental roaming in Northern Ireland, which would happen if a phone in Northern Ireland locked onto the mobile signal coming from the Republic of Ireland.
Roaming in the EU after Brexit
Phone calls from the UK to the EU are not technically “roaming” because the customer is at home, not abroad. As of 15 May 2019, calls and text messages (both mobile and land line) including from a customers’ home country, are capped - at no more than €0.19 per minute for calls and €0.06 per SMS (plus VAT) -.
As for roaming, from 1 January 2021, UK telecoms companies will not be legally required to maintain the capped charges; more legislation has been passed that would repeal the legislation that imposes the capped charges from 1 January 2021.
Roaming in the UK after Brexit
Of course, just because the operators will be allowed to reintroduce roaming charges, it does not necessarily mean that they will do so.
The problem is that without the EU rules in place, the charges would depend on agreements between UK operators and their counterparts in EU countries.
While they may have such 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 them indefinitely.
There are three factors that mean there is a reasonable chance of UK operators being able to continue to offer inclusive roaming:
- Bilateral deals - so a UK operator would make an agreement with a French operator, for example, to allow inclusive roaming for UK customers visiting France and for French customers visiting the UK
- Each EU country has more than one operator, so UK operators will have a choice of companies to deal with.
- Some of the UK operators are parts of groups that also operate in EU countries.
The four main operators in the UK declined to comment on the specifics of the commercial deals they have done with other operators, but said they did not plan to reintroduce roaming charges.
Three said it "already offers roaming at no extra cost for its customers in over 70 destinations including the US, Australia and New Zealand. We will retain this great customer benefit regardless of Brexit negotiations."
Vodafone said it had no plans to reintroduce roaming charges.
EE said: "Our customers enjoy inclusive roaming in Europe and beyond, and we don't have any plans to change this based on the Brexit outcome. So our customers going on holiday and travelling in the EU will continue to enjoy inclusive roaming."
And O2 said: "We're committed to providing our customers with great connectivity and value when they travel outside the UK. We currently have no plans to change our roaming services across Europe."
So, overall, it seems like not much will change for most customers when roaming in the EU.