Mobile users in the UK can expect to pay significant roaming charges when traveling abroad in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the government has confirmed today. Consumers using UK SIM cards once again face the prospect of inflated costs for mobile data, calls and texts.
When the EU passed legislation banning network carriers from charging extra fees for using your phone abroad in 2017, UK consumers hailed the end of unexpected data roaming bills. Now, Theresa May's government has confirmed that if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal - as is the default option - on March 29 this year, that consumer protection will no longer apply.
Operators would be forced to revert to pre-legislation terms, opening the door for a return to the days when it was normal for consumers to receive a hefty bill upon returning from a European holiday for using mobile data on the continent.
Before 2017, it was second-nature for Britons to turn off mobile data when boarding a plane much the same way passengers turn on flight mode. The press was full of stories of uninformed holidaymakers who had forgotten to do this returning home to expensive bills. UK consumers had two options; pay the inflated prices, or spend your trip searching for public Wi-Fi every time you wanted to check your email, social media or send WhatsApp messages.
News of a potential return to those days was revealed via a note about new Mobile Roaming (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 legislation. Consumer groups have been lobbying for a new law that will maintain the status quo and continue the ban on roaming charges after Brexit. UK government, however, has not adopted such a plan.
The note also sheds light on what to expect if Britain leaves the EU without a deal. It says: "It will not be possible to impose a limit on the wholesale charges faced by UK operators when their customers use networks owned by EU operators."
Roaming could be removed altogether
Mobile operators in the UK say that any increased costs of offering data roaming services abroad after Brexit will have to be passed onto consumers. This is to be expected. However, if the consumer lobby groups get their way, operators have raised concerns about a situation where costs increase, but legislation bans them from passing on the cost to the consumer.
"A limit on the costs that could be passed on to customers would affect the sustainability of certain roaming services. This means that roaming services could be removed altogether from some customers." That's right, if the law does not allow mobile operators in the UK to charge extra for roaming services, they might just remove the option to use your smartphone on a European network altogether.
So far, only one operator in the UK has committed to ensuring that data roaming reamins free of charge after Brexit, Three.
What do you think about the potential for a return to data roaming charges for UK consumers? Let us know in the comments.