Return of EU roaming 'costs' Brits £80m this summer

Young woman in yellow walking with smart phone on the old town square in Prague city
(Image credit: Shutterstock / RossHelen)

Virgin Media O2 says the reintroduction of EU roaming charges following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union (EU) could have cost British tourists as much as £80 million this past summer.

EU regulations that allowed any citizen of a member state to use their voice, text, and data allowances in another were first introduced in 2017. However there was no provisions for the continuation of the policy in the UK’s withdrawal agreement from the EU.

Britain formally exited the EU at the start of 2020, but lockdown and travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic meant 2022 was the first summer that many holidaymakers would have been exposed to the new situation.

UK EU roaming

Virgin Media O2 collected anonymised, aggregated movement data from mobile masts during July and August to calculate its estimates, which it says provide an insight into the financial impact of the changes during an uncertain economic climate.

Of course, the company has a vested interest in promoting this issue. Despite constant protestations that they had no intention of withdrawing free EU roaming, EE, Three and Vodafone have all done so in the past year. This leaves Virgin Media O2 as the only major operator to have continued the policy and is promoting it as a key differentiator in its marketing materials.

“As people continue to feel the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, it’s alarming to see just how much European roaming charges have cost this summer,” said Gareth Turpin, chief commercial officer at Virgin Media O2. “We’re proud to be the only major mobile network to not bring back roaming fees in Europe, so our customers can roam freely, with one less thing to worry about as they take well-earned holidays.

“Our data shows that this summer European travel has bounced back to pre-pandemic highs, and we know that many UK travellers rely on their mobiles to help them navigate, explore and make the most of their time away. We’re committed to upgrading the holiday experience for people in the UK, providing seamless connectivity at home and abroad.”

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.