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What will happen to mobile roaming charges post-Brexit?

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Are you planning a holiday soon? Here’s how the different Brexit paths could impact your mobile phone bill…

The UK’s plans to leave the European Union (EU) will have many implications for our lives, not least the question of what happens to mobile phone roaming charges when travelling abroad.

While many of us have become accustomed to using our mobile phone data allowances at no extra cost while in the EU, this situation cannot be guaranteed post-Brexit.

In guidance published today, the UK government has set out the following options:

Leaving with a deal

In this scenario, surcharge-free roaming would continue during the so-called ‘implementation period’. When this period finishes, the arrangements for roaming, including any surcharges, would depend on the outcome of negotiations.

If there’s no deal

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the costs that EU mobile operators would be able to charge UK operators for providing roaming services would no longer be regulated.

The government explains that this would mean free roaming charges within the EU can no longer be guaranteed.

If this scenario plays out, make sure you check the roaming policies of your mobile operator before travelling abroad.

It is worth noting that some mobile operators, such as Three, EE, O2 and Vodafone, have said they do not have any plans to change their approach to mobile roaming post-Brexit.

What to do if you face roaming charges

If your mobile operator is proposing to introduce roaming charges or to change the terms on which roaming is offered, the government says it could make sense to consider the following factors:

  • Be aware of your rights to switch mobile operator.
  • Ofcom rules allow you to cancel 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.

If the UK leaves without a deal, the government has also retained a financial limit of £45 in UK law. This is the limit for mobile data usage while abroad – consumers must actively chose to continue spending above this level when they are abroad.