What are the rules around EU roaming charges for phone networks and which ones are free?

With Three joining the list of networks to claw back roaming charges for data usage in Europe, we look at the costs of all the main providers (Lauren Hurley/PA) (PA Archive)

With Three joining the list of networks to claw back roaming charges for data usage in Europe, we look at the costs of all the main providers (Lauren Hurley/PA) (PA Archive)

Phone companies are taking advantage of post-Brexit deregulation to fight customers to rack up huge roaming bills on EU bank holidays, Martin Lewis has warned.

At the end of June, a wide range of customer protections introduced after Brexit expired and, as a result, phone networks are no longer required to send customers a message with price details when they start roaming.

Networks also no longer need to provide protection against accidental roaming.

Customers can rack up huge bills in minutes, without even realizing they are using their data, due to ‘data-hungry smartphones’.

MoneySavingExpert.com has called on telecoms regulator Ofcom and the government to tighten the rules after some post-Brexit consumer protections expired.

Here’s everything you need to know about EU roaming charges for phone networks.

What are the rules around EU roaming charges?

Legal obligations for operators around roaming ended on 30 June this year, meaning firms no longer need to send customers a text message with price details when they start roaming, apply a monthly cap on data roaming charges or provide protection against accidental roaming.

Some of Britain’s biggest networks have reintroduced data roaming charges in Europe after Britain left the EU, and Mr Lewis said mobile phone companies could not be trusted to self-regulate, as some operators promised not to reintroduce roaming charges after Britain left. Brexit, but has now done so.

He has now called on the government and regulators to step in, saying: “I have no faith in mobile companies to self-regulate. When we left the EU they promised not to reintroduce European Roaming Charges…but most of the major networks have broken that promise.

“So our report urges Ofcom not to rely on voluntary pledges – we need to re-introduce formal, mandatory consumer protection.”

MoneySavingExpert’s report also raised concerns about different providers using different definitions of a “day” of roaming, which it said caused confusion and risked unexpected charges.

The report revealed that while some operators define a day as 24 hours from first use, others define it as anything up to 11.59pm UK time on the same day, meaning someone who signed up at 11.58pm on the same day would only get one minute of data before you have to pay again.

It also revealed that this is not explained in arrival text messages.

“We need to ban a daily roaming fee that is charged for use ‘up to 11.59pm’ without even mentioning in which time zone,” Lewis said.

“Instead, we recommend that all providers must define a ‘roaming day’ as a 24-hour period from the first use, clearly explain it in the arrival text and notify customers at least one hour before the daily charges end.

Which networks have free roaming in the EU?

O2 has chosen to cover its Europe zone in its tariffs.

This means that your data (subject to your roaming limit), minutes and text allowances will work in the Europe zone just as they do in the UK.

The Europe Zone data allowance is limited to 25GB, so if your current allowance goes over this, you will only be able to use 25GB of it before you start accumulating charges.

Which networks charge extra for roaming in the EU?

You can use minutes, texts and data allowances in the European roaming zone with EE for an additional £2 per day or for £10 per month with a Roam Abroad add-on.

Vodafone has also reintroduced charges for Brits using their mobile plans in European countries.

Most of the major mobile phone companies, including EE, Sky Mobile, Three and Vodafone, have reintroduced EU roaming charges, with giffgaff and Tesco Mobile the latest names to announce contract changes.

Giffgaff told its customers that from July 26 they can only use up to 5GB of data a month in the EU, and above that level they will be charged 10p per MB.

Giffgaff said it had “taken the decision to reduce some of these costs so that we can at least give our members up to 5GB to roam around the EU, at no extra cost”.

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