Brexit may restore EU roaming charges, Government confirms

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The UK government has confirmed that mobile users could be subject to roaming charges within the European Union from January 2021.

All roaming fees were abolished across the EU in June 2017 following several years of price cuts, as per European law. These regulations will remain in place for the next 11 months as part of the UK’s transition agreement with the EU.

The two parties will attempt to thrash out a future working agreement during this period, but any roaming regulations would be dependent on the outcome of those negotiations.

UK EU roaming charges

Should roaming not form part of the agreement, then European and UK operators would be under no obligation to offer tariff-free use when subscribers use their phone abroad.

In theory, this means operators will no longer be required to offer roaming services at a regulated rate and this could be passed onto customers.

However, there is nothing to stop individual operators negotiating their own wholesale rates with foreign counterparts, while it is possible that European operators will offer British networks access to their services in exchange for a similar arrangement for their own customers.

After all, European mobile users have also become accustomed to using their phones in the UK without paying extra.

In practice, it appears as though little will change for customers of some operators.

“We’re committed to eradicating excessive roaming charges and will retain this great customer benefit regardless of Brexit negotiations allowing our customers to continue using their usual allowances when they travel within the EU,” a Three spokesperson told TechRadar Pro.

EE has also confirmed it will not restore roaming charges. 

Should roaming fees be reintroduced then the government says the main form of consumer protection against bill shock will take the form of a £45 cap. Once this threshold has been reached, then customers would have to ‘opt-in’ to incur additional charges.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.