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Virgin and O2 commit to free EU roaming

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The merged telecoms companies have confirmed that mobile customers with O2 and Virgin Mobile will maintain inclusive roaming in Europe.

The decision makes Virgin Media O2 the only one of the four mobile network operators in the UK not to reintroduce roaming charges.

Vodafone and EE both introduced roaming charges in the EU in the New Year with both networks both later pushing back the date roaming charges will be implemented. Vodafone will apply roaming charges from 31 January and EE from 3 March. Three will start charging for EU roaming from 23 May.

The statement from Virgin Media O2 formed when Virgin and O2 merged in June 2021 comes as travel testing rules are eased, prompting a boom in holiday bookings.

Customers on both O2 and Virgin Mobile will maintain their inclusive roaming in Europe, so they can travel to destinations all over Europe and use their data, calls and texts just as they would in the UK.

A recent survey carried out by Virgin Media O2 showed that Brits have strong travel intentions in 2022. By this summer the majority (75%) of people surveyed expect to travel abroad – and a majority expect to do so more this year than they did in 2021.

Analysis of daily charge rates from other providers suggests that a family of four going abroad for two weeks could see £100 or more added to their holiday bill when using their phones each day.

Gareth Turpin, chief commercial officer for mobile at Virgin Media O2, said: “We’re starting the year by giving our customers some certainty: we will not be reintroducing roaming fees in Europe for customers on O2 or Virgin Mobile.

“Unlike all the other major mobile networks who are bringing back roaming fees, we will not be following suit. With many Brits now looking to plan a trip abroad, we’ve got our customers covered and extra roaming charges will be one less thing to worry about.”

Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at Uswitch, said: “With three of the big four mobile providers bringing roaming charges back in 2022, it’s a breath of fresh air to have one company make this pledge to their customers.

“This promise from Virgin Media O2 means that O2 mobile customers will be able to enjoy their holidays without running up £2 a day roaming charges.

“Roaming charges are deeply unpopular with mobile users, who rightly feel aggrieved by a return to charges to access minutes and data they have already paid for. It will be interesting to see whether consumers feel strongly enough about roaming that Virgin Media O2 starts pulling in more mobile customers.

“Existing customers of EE, Vodafone or Three should check their contract to see whether these new charges apply to them. If you signed up before the specific dates, you should be safe.

“When it comes to travelling, don’t leave it until the last minute to check the roaming charges for your destination. Use hotel and cafe Wi-Fi when on holiday where possible, ensuring any public access points are safe and secure before logging on.”