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UK summer travellers paid £15m roaming fees in France, Virgin-O2 says

Many British mobile operators have reintroduced mobile internet charges in the EU, with Virgin Media O2 a major exception

Many British mobile operators have reintroduced roaming charges for customers travelling in the EU since Brexit made it possible Pic: kudla / Shutterstock

The reintroduction of European roaming charges by some UK mobile operators has cost British holidaymakers around £80million (roughly €93million) this summer, according to a report by Virgin Media O2. 

The mobile operator states that the fees cost holidaymakers to France in July and August around £14.8million or the equivalent of “15.2 million crunchy baguettes or 448,000kg of pungent brie”. 

Operators such as EE, Three and Vodafone have reintroduced roaming charges for British customers travelling in the EU – although some customers with older plans will still have access to free roaming. The reintroduction of the charges was made possible after Brexit ended an EU obligation for British mobile operators to provide free roaming within the bloc. 

Virgin Media O2 is the most significant operator not to have reintroduced roaming charges for its customers. A handful of smaller operators such as Lebara and Smarty also still offer free roaming. 

Roaming is necessary for customers who wish to use the internet, texts or calls on their phones on the go, without being connected to WiFi. 

Gareth Turpin, chief commercial officer at Virgin Media O2, stated: 

“As people continue to feel the impact of the cost-of-living crisis, it’s alarming to see just how much European roaming charges have cost this summer. 

“We’re proud to be the only major mobile network to not bring back roaming fees in Europe, so our customers can roam freely, with one less thing to worry about as they take well-earned holidays.”

Many of the UK operators that have reintroduced roaming charges also offer special packages – generally more expensive than standard contracts – that allow their customers to continue to roam for free in the EU. 

A spokesman for Vodafone UK told The Telegraph that most of their customers who went to the EU this summer were able to do so for free through having roaming included in their plan or because their current plan had begun before August 11, 2021. The company introduced EU roaming fees on all plans taken up after this date. 

A spokesman for Three said that they wanted to “keep roaming pricing as simple and affordable for customers as possible”. 

The company offers a flat rate of £2 per day for roaming within Europe and £5 per day outside Europe. 

Tesco Mobile is set to reintroduce EU roaming charges from January 1, 2023, the i newspaper reported

This applies to all customers who have joined the network or upgraded their plans since June 16 this year. 

Those with contracts dating from before that date will still be able to access free EU roaming in 2023 as long as they do not upgrade their plans. 

French operators keep roaming free in the UK

The major French mobile operators, SFR, Orange, Free and Bouygues Telecom, all continue to class the UK in the same way as EU countries, meaning that customers can generally use their phones as they would in France without incurring extra charges.

This is despite the fact that they are legally able to reintroduce roaming fees for travel to the UK. 

All French mobile provider customers should note that the absence of additional fees applies to data, calls and texts used in the UK, and not calls to the UK from France, which may still incur an extra charge.

The EU extended its no roaming fees regulation to 2032 in a decision taken in December 2021. 

Related articles

Is it viable to still use my French mobile in the UK post-Brexit?

What is the ‘fair usage’ limit for UK phones being used in France?

Will French mobile companies reintroduce UK roaming fees post-Brexit?

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