Brexit is finally upon us and with it comes a variety of changes to life, some expected and others that will probably come as a surprise.
One of these is the return of roaming charges on your phone when travelling in Europe. EE, Vodafone and most recently Three have announced that they will reinstate roaming charges, making a U-turn on their stance from earlier this year.
For the most part, the changes will affect new or upgrading customers only.
So what kinds of roaming charges can you expect? Find out
What are roaming charges?
For a number of years, anyone travelling through mainland Europe and using their phone would pay charges for using mobile phone networks. These were called roaming charges, due to the fact that you were indeed roaming around and not at home. And they led to some pretty hefty bills if you watched a few episodes on Netflix without realising.
To see a more detailed explanation, read our mobile roaming charges explained article.
Things changed in 2017 when legislation was passed that ensured EU members could travel through all the member states without incurring these charges. Of course, Britain voted to leave the EU and as of 31st December the transition period ended, leaving the UK outside the bloc.
While fisherman may rejoice, anyone hoping to travel through the continent will now have to contend with some bigger phone bills. To clarify this, the UK government website states the following:
‘From 1 January 2021, the guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will end.
Check with your phone operator to find out about any roaming charges you might get from 1 January 2021.
A new law means that you’re protected from getting mobile data charges above £45 without you knowing.
Once you reach £45, you need to opt in to spend more so that you can continue using the internet while you’re abroad. Your phone operator will tell how you can do this.’
So, following the government’s advice, we checked with the main UK networks to see what you can expect.
Will EE charge for roaming in the EU?
EE was the first network to change its stance on roaming charges, announcing fee changes in June 2021.
Customers who joined the network before 7 July 2021 will not be affected, while customers who started a new plan on EE after 7 July will have to pay a daily fee, but only after January 2022.
EE's roaming charges in Europe cost £2 per day unless you add the "Roam Abroad" Smart Benefit to your plan when you travel, which costs £10 per month though can be adjusted if you add the benefit in the middle of your billing cycle. It was previously called the Roam Further pass. See all EU roaming destinations on EE.
Read our how does roaming work on EE? guide for more information.
Will O2 charge for roaming in the EU?
O2's hasn't yet announced any changes to its European roaming fees and still offers up to 25GB of data abroad at no additional cost as per the fair usage limit. If you need more than that, it'll cost £3.50/GB
We’d recommend contacting O2 before travelling abroad just to confirm that you’re able to use your device without the risk of roaming charges.
Read our how does roaming work on O2? guide for more information.
Will Three charge for roaming in the EU?
On 9 September, Three announced that it would stop free EU roaming with changes taking effect from 23 May 2022. This won't affect anyone who joined the network before 1 October 2021 – unless you've upgraded your plan after that date.
New and upgrading customers will have to pay £2 per day within the EU and £5 per day outside the EU, though roaming in the Republic of Ireland will remain unaffected.
In a statement, Three said, "we know that Go Roam has always been important to our customers and we had hoped to retain this benefit, but unfortunately there are now too many unknowns, which has made it commercially unviable for us to continue."
This conflicts with what a Three spokesperson told Tech Advisor last January: ‘Three is the global leader in international roaming and 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 allowing our customers to continue using their phones when they travel within the EU.’
Read our how does roaming work on Three? guide for more information.
Will Vodafone charge for roaming in the EU?
Vodafone also reintroduced roaming charges to its plans on 11 August 2021. Customers who joined before that date won't be affected – just as long as they don't upgrade or change their plan. Pay as you go plans won't be affected by the change either.
New customers will have to pay for roaming charges from 6 January 2022, unless their plan includes roaming as a benefit as a part of the new 4 Xtra plan structure (which starts at £18 per month for 2GB data).
Customers who join Vodafone after 11 August without the roaming 4 Xtra benefit will pay £2 per day in the EU, or £6 per day outside the EU. See all the countries that Vodafone covers and prices.
Customers on (Vodafone-owned) Voxi can still enjoy free EU roaming in 48 countries in the Europe Zone.
Read our how does roaming work on Vodaphone? guide for more information.
If you find that you might be due some extra charges or are considering changing your provider, be sure to read our guide to the best phone network.
We're also looking at the best SIM deals in the UK if you're considering switching.