Vodafone is to reintroduce charges for UK customers who use their phones in Europe, despite Britain’s biggest mobile companies previously saying that they would not bring back roaming costs after Brexit.
Vodafone said new customers and those upgrading will have to pay up to £2 a day to use their monthly allowance of data, calls and text messages in mainland Europe.
The company, which is following in the footsteps of BT-owned EE after it made a similar announcement in June, said the charges would come into force from next year.
“Any reintroduction of roaming charges means that consumers are paying a fee to use data and minutes they have already paid for,” said Ernest Doku, mobile expert at Uswitch.com. “It’s disappointing for consumers, with a risk that roaming at no additional cost could soon be a distant memory for UK residents. Always use hotel and cafe wifi when on holiday where possible.”
O2 has said it will impose an extra “fair use” charge if customers use more than 25GB of data in a month. Three has cut its fair-use data limit from 20GB a month to 12GB a month when in Europe, with a £3 charge per extra gigabyte if customers need to use more data.
Since 2017, mobile networks in EU countries have been banned from charging customers extra to use their phones in other member countries.
Legislation scrapping roaming charges within the single market was introduced after multiple cases of so-called “bill shock”, in which holiday makers returned home from foreign breaks to be presented with bills of thousands of pounds for using their phones while abroad.
However, the Brexit trade deal between the UK and Europe signed in December did not include continued protection against roaming charges. In January, the UK’s biggest operators – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – all said they had no plans to reintroduce roaming charges even though they could do so.
The trade deal states that both sides will encourage mobile operators to have “transparent and reasonable rates” when it comes to roaming.
Vodafone said that from 11 August all new and upgrading customers would face roaming charges if they travel in Europe starting from January. Affected customers can pay £2 a day to use their allowance in Europe, or £1 if they buy it in an eight or 15-day bundle. EE’s charges stand at £2 a day in 47 European destinations, starting from January.
“Existing customers will not be impacted by these changes while they remain on their current price plan,” a spokesman for Vodafone said. “Roaming in the Republic of Ireland will still be included for all customers.”