ROaming fees have come back in a big way since Brexit. So, if your phone has never been out of your hand, it’s important to make sure you don’t have your shine after the holidays damaged by a shocking bill for calls and data when you get home.
Almost all major mobile operators, including EE, Sky Mobile, Three and Vodafone, have reinstated roaming charges in the European Union, with giffgaff and Tesco Mobile being the latest names to announce contract changes.
Giffgaff told its customers that as of July 26 in the European Union, they can only use up to 5GB of data per month. Above this level, you will be charged 10p per megabyte. In a post on its website, the company blamed it on connection fees it incurred while roaming in the European Union.
Giffgaff said it “has made the decision to reduce some of this cost so that we can provide our members with at least 5GB of roaming in the EU at no additional cost.” It cited 2019 usage data showing that more than 90% of its members used less than this number when roaming in the EU.
In another change, the sun rises over the free roaming that Tesco Mobile customers enjoy under the Home Away contract. Starting in early 2023, new subscribers and upgrade customers will lose this feature; Existing customers will continue to enjoy this feature unless they change their devices or switch to a SIM only plan. Roaming charges are 10p per MB of data, 20p for SMS and 55p per minute for calls.
In 2017, mobile phone networks in EU countries were banned from charging customers extra fees for using their phones in other member countries, with the right to call, text and, most importantly, use data plans anywhere in Europe – just as In domestic European legislation in the United Kingdom. However, the Brexit deal did not include any additional protections against roaming charges.
Because fees vary between networks, it’s a “confusing time” to travel with your phone, says Ernst Ducaux, communications expert at price comparison and matchmaking service Uswitch.com.
As a first step, Doku suggests that you check the roaming charges for your destination and see if your provider has a fair use policy. This means they can set your full UK allowance even if you have an unlimited plan at home. Three, for example, has an acceptable usage limit of 12 GB, and you’ll pay £3 per GB if you exceed it.
Of the big four, only O2 said it’s not charging roaming fees at this time, while Virgin Mobile customers should be safe from roaming fees “at least for this year,” Doku says.
“Depending on the last time you got a mobile phone or SIM deal, or upgraded your phone, you may be protected from your provider’s new roaming charges because they weren’t yet included in your contract at the time,” he adds.
If you switch networks, you may be able to continue roaming at no additional cost – and save money on your bills, too. “O2 is the last major network that does not return roaming fees for customers traveling to the EU, but there are a few micro SIM only networks that also offer universal roaming in Europe and it can be a good option if you don’t go far.” Doku says.
The easiest way to avoid unintended charges while traveling is to go to your phone’s settings menu and turn off roaming. If you need to get online, use the WiFi in your hotel or at local restaurants and bars. Also, remember to put your phone in airplane mode while in transit to avoid charges when traveling through different regions.
Another radical option is to turn off the phone and just relax. Go on, you know you can do it.