UK customers will have to pay extra roaming charges for using their phones abroad, Vodafone has confirmed.
The operator has revealed new and upgrading customers on "selected plans" will be charged at least £1 a day, up to a maximum of £2 per day from January 2022.
Vodafone had initially said it had no plans to reintroduce roaming costs after EE became the first UK operator to do so back in June 2021.
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All roaming fees were abolished across the EU in June 2017 following several years of price cuts, as per European law.
However, roaming was not included in the UK’s withdrawal agreement from the EU, meaning European and British operators are now under no obligation to offer tariff-free use when subscribers use their phone abroad.
Data roaming returns
"I want to make it clear that there will be no unexpectedly high bills to pay – you’ll know exactly what you’re paying in advance," Ahmed Essam, Vodafone UK CEO wrote in a blog post announcing the news. "You’ll also be able to set a spend limit on your data usage. Everything will be transparent and easy to understand."
"The reality is that including roaming – a service that costs us money to provide – in every plan means more than half of our customers are paying for something that they don’t use," Essam continued. "What’s free for one person usually has to be paid for by someone else."
"So we think it’s fairer to give people more choice over what they pay for, either opting into a price plan that includes free roaming, or paying for roaming only when they roam. Otherwise people who rarely or never go abroad end up paying for something they don’t use."
From January 2022, customers included in the charges will be able to pay £2 a day to use their allowance in Europe, which falls to £1 if they purchase an eight or 15-day bundle.
Vodafone said less than half of its customers roamed beyond Ireland in 2019, and following a barren year for charges due to the pandemic, this may have influenced the company's change of heart.
"Existing customers will not be impacted by these changes while they remain on their current price plan, and roaming in the Republic of Ireland will still be included for all customers," Vodafone said.
EE became the first operator to confirm the return of roaming, with customers that sign a contract from July 7 2021 being subject a flat £2 per day fee if they want to use their phone in any EU country apart from Ireland from January 1 2022.
The operator says it will also offer a 30-day Roam Abroad Pass for £10 a month, with customers on a Smart or Full Works Plan able to access the pass as part of their plan.
The UK's other two major operators, O2 and Three, have not yet reintroduced roaming charges, but have begun imposing new restrictions on travellers.
O2 says all customers will be subject to a 25GB data limit when roaming in the EU and will be charged £3.50 for every additional GB consumed while travelling. The company’s unlimited data customers have already been bound by this limit and only 1% of customers get close to this threshold.
Meanwhile, Three lowered its EU roaming data limit from 20GB to 12GB to bring it in line with non-European destinations included in its offer. Any excess data will be subject to 0.3p per MB, or £3 per GB.
Such fair use policies were actually permitted by EU law in order to prevent any abuse of the regulations that could harm operators. For example, a customer in one EU country might take out a mobile plan in another member state because it is cheaper. However, UK operators now have more freedom to impose lower caps.
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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.