UK roaming charges could return immediately following no-deal Brexit

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UK mobile users could be hit with high roaming bills for using their mobile phones abroad in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The government has warned that British consumers may face unexpected costs if the UK crashes out of the European Union without a deal thanks to the return of data roaming charges.

Under EU legislation passed in 2017, mobile providers have been banned from charging extra fees to customers using their devices to make calls, send texts or use data when travelling overseas.

However a no-deal Brexit would see the UK revert to pre-legislation terms, meaning operators could force roaming charges upon customers from March 29.

Roaming charges return

The news was uncovered in a government note concerning the new Mobile Roaming (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 legislation.

In it, the government admitted consumer groups lobbied hard for a new scheme to maintain current arrangements, however following "careful consideration," this was not adopted.

The note says that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, “it will not be possible to impose a limit on the wholesale charges faced by UK operators when their customers use networks owned by EU operators”.

“Mobile operators noted that absent a cap on the charges EU operators can apply to UK operators (as currently regulated by the EU), any increases in costs would likely be passed on to customers," the note added.

“Additionally, operators also raised concerns that a limit on the costs that could be passed on to customers would affect the sustainability of certain roaming services. This means that roaming services could be removed altogether from some customers.”

Reports last year suggested that many UK operators would look to ensure roaming remained free after Brexit, but according to recent research by MoneySavingExpert, so far only Three has said it will do so.

Mike Moore
Deputy Editor, TechRadar Pro

Mike Moore is Deputy Editor at TechRadar Pro. He has worked as a B2B and B2C tech journalist for nearly a decade, including at one of the UK's leading national newspapers and fellow Future title ITProPortal, and when he's not keeping track of all the latest enterprise and workplace trends, can most likely be found watching, following or taking part in some kind of sport.