How leaving the EU will affect mobile roaming in EU and EEA countries
Find out how businesses and consumers would be affected by changes to mobile roaming charges if the UK leaves the EU with no deal.
Before the UK leaves the EU
This is advice for consumers and businesses in relation to mobile roaming when the UK leaves the EU.
You can currently travel in the EU with guaranteed surcharge-free roaming. This means you can use your mobile devices to make calls, send texts and use mobile data services for no more than you would be charged when in the UK. This surcharge-free roaming will be guaranteed until we leave the EU.
If there’s a deal
In the event of a deal, surcharge-free roaming would continue to be guaranteed during the Implementation Period. Following the Implementation Period the arrangements for roaming, including surcharges, would depend on the outcome of the negotiations on the Future Economic Partnership.
If there’s no deal
In the event of a no deal, the costs that EU mobile operators would be able to charge UK operators for providing roaming services would no longer be regulated after exit day. This would mean that surcharge-free roaming when you travel to the EU could no longer be guaranteed. This would include employees of UK companies travelling in the EU for business.
If we leave the EU without a deal, you should check the roaming policies of your mobile operator before you go abroad. If your operator has not changed its roaming policy, you will continue to have surcharge-free roaming in the EU.
Some mobile operators (3, EE, O2 and Vodafone) have said that they have no current plans to change their approach to mobile roaming after the UK leaves the EU.
If your mobile operator is proposing to reintroduce surcharges for roaming, or change the terms on which it offers roaming, you should:
- be aware of your rights to switch mobile operator
- be aware that Ofcom rules allow cancellation of your contract free-of-charge if your operator makes certain price increases
- know how to turn off your mobile data roaming on your mobile device if you’re worried about being charged for data usage in the EU
- ensure you understand the alternatives to using mobile networks when abroad. Wi-Fi is widely available, which could allow you to make calls, send texts and use data for free or with little charge
- understand which services might be expensive to use and which are likely to be cheap. For example, streaming live television or sending large video clips from your device could be expensive as they use large amounts of data
To protect consumers from unexpected charges, the Government has legislated to ensure that the requirements on mobile operators to apply a financial limit on mobile data usage while abroad is retained in UK law, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal. The limit has been set at £45 per monthly billing period (currently €50 under EU law).
This means that consumers cannot continue to use mobile data services when roaming unless they actively chose to continue spending. The government has also legislated to continue to ensure that consumers receive alerts when they are at 80% and 100% data usage.
Leaving without a deal would not prevent UK mobile operators making and honouring commercial arrangements with mobile operators in the EU - and beyond the EU - to deliver the services their customers expect, including roaming arrangements.
The availability and pricing of mobile roaming in the EU would be a commercial question for the mobile operators. As a consequence, surcharge-free mobile roaming in the EU may not continue to be standard across every mobile phone package from the point of EU exit. Roaming may also be offered with different terms and conditions. This might affect the amount of calls that you can make, texts you can send and data you can consume, including the application of limits that are less than the amount available in your bundle when you’re in the UK.
If you live in Northern Ireland
Consumers and businesses in border areas should be aware of ‘inadvertent roaming’. This is when a mobile signal in a border region is stronger from the country across the border. In this case, a consumer from Northern Ireland in a border region of Northern Ireland would roam onto an Irish network as the mobile phone signal is stronger from a network in Ireland.
To help address this issue, the government has passed legislation that in the event of no deal, UK law will retain the EU Roaming Regulation provisions that operators must make information available to their customers on how to avoid inadvertent roaming in border regions. And that operators must take reasonable steps to protect their customers from paying roaming charges for inadvertently accessing roaming services.
The availability and pricing of mobile roaming in the EU, including across the island of Ireland, would be a commercial decision for the mobile operators.
Some mobile operators have stated that they have no current plans to change their approach to mobile roaming after the UK leaves the EU. In addition, the Government is open to facilitating discussions between mobile operators to ensure that future arrangements are as effective as possible. However, surcharge-free mobile roaming in the EU may not continue to be standard across every mobile phone package when the UK leaves the EU.
Surcharge-free roaming in the EU, known as Roam Like at Home, is underpinned by the EU Roaming Regulation - (EU) No 531/2012 - and its subsequent amendments - (EU) No 2015/2120 and (EU) No 2017/920. This Regulation also regulates what mobile operators can charge each other for providing roaming services and extends to the wider European Economic Area (EEA), which includes Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
This notice is meant for guidance only. You should consider whether you need separate professional advice before making specific preparations.