Today, the government has released a paper which looks at what consumers could face when using their mobile phone in the EU, should Number 10 fail to reach an agreement with Brussels.
If the UK was to leave the European Union with no deal, the popular ‘roam like at home’ legislation, which allows holidaymakers to enjoy the same costs for using their mobile phone abroad as they would at home, would no longer be protected under UK law. Providers would be free to charge what they wish.
The government stated that legislation would be drawn up to make sure that mobile phone operators such as EE and O2 would have to apply a cap on mobile data usage while abroad, something which already exists within EU laws. However, free roaming when you travel to the EU could no longer be guaranteed.
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Why could roaming costs return?
As the Government has decided to leave the decisions on how much it would cost to roam in the EU in the hands of the mobile phone operators, any continuation of ‘roam like at home’ would depend on the goodwill of companies.
Some operators, such as Three and Vodafone, have come out publicly and said that ‘roam like at home’ will continue whether there is a deal or not, and there is no suggestion that much would change in the short term.
However, looking ahead, this position can change depending on how cost-effective this is for operators.
When on holiday, EU operators charge your home operator a fee when UK tourists use their phone. Under “Roam like at home”, that cost is capped but if the UK was to leave with no agreement, this cap would no longer apply.
In order to keep “roam like at home” going, it is likely a similar mutual cap would have to be agreed for it to be cost effective for mobile operators.
Which? is calling on Government to keep roaming free for consumers
As the government’s paper details, consumers could face hefty charges for using their phone abroad.
That’s why we are calling on the government to commit to prioritising free roaming in post-Brexit trade deals and scrap mobile-roaming costs worldwide, and to secure a deal with the EU that will cover mobile roaming.
Responding to the government’s comments, Peter Vicary-Smith, Chief Executive of Which?, said:
‘Two thirds of people think it is important that free roaming exists when travelling in the EU, so the news that we could face the return of sky-high charges to use our phones abroad will come as a real blow.
‘If the government is to deliver a Brexit that works for consumers, it needs to not only maintain free-roaming across the EU but also look to extend the benefit of free-roaming for people visiting countries worldwide.’
How to save on costs when you are abroad
Here at Which?, we work to give you all the info on how to keep costs down on your mobile phone bill, whether abroad or at home.
If a deal is not secured for mobile roaming, you’ll have to be even more careful using your phone abroad.
Check out our advice on how you can prepare your mobile for a trip abroad, to find out how you can avoid using data in countries that aren’t included in your monthly bundle.
Even in the EU it can be easy to use too much data, so find out how to track your data and minutes. Also see which providers give you the most value on holiday, where we find out which are the best mobile providers for roaming.