Return of EU roaming charges could surprise consumers with costs
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Consumers could be caught out by unexpected mobile roaming costs as post-Brexit EU protections have ended, MoneySavingExpert.com (MSE) has warned.
The EU banned roaming fees in 2017 for all its member countries as part of an overhaul of Europe’s telecoms market that was designed to boost growth and innovation.
However, soon after leaving the EU, most of the UK’s networks reintroduced roaming charges as they were no longer beholden to the established rules.
In a new report, MoneySavingExpert.com found that, post-Brexit, mobile users had been left with weaker rights and many with higher costs.
It found that mobile providers no longer need to warn users of roaming costs, provide a monthly cap on roaming fees, or offer protections against inadvertent roaming.
In addition, the report showed that while three of the four major mobile networks now charge for roaming in the EU, different providers use different definitions of a ‘day’ of roaming, leaving consumers at risk of overpaying.
“I’ve no faith in mobile firms to self-regulate. When we left the EU, they promised not to reintroduce European roaming charges, yet most of the big networks have broken that promise,” said Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com.
“Our report calls on Ofcom to not trust voluntary promises: we need to reintroduce the formal, compulsory consumer protections.
“It’s time, too, to define time. We need to ban a daily roaming fee charged for use ‘up to 11.59pm’ without even mentioning in which time zone. Instead, we recommend all providers must define a roaming ‘day’ as a 24-hour period from first use, clearly explain that in the arrival text and alert customers at least an hour before the daily charges end.”
Since leaving the EU, EE, Three and Vodafone, as well as Sky Mobile and Voxi, have reintroduced £2 ‘daily’ EU roaming charges for customers to access their UK allowance on the continent, after originally saying they would not. Of the major providers, only Virgin Media O2 is still offering roaming at no extra cost.
Most providers state that chargeable roaming periods start 24 hours from first use, while EE defines a day’s use in the EU as anything up to 11.59pm UK time the same day, meaning that users would only get a minute’s worth if signing up at 11.58pm.
An Ofcom spokesperson said: “Ofcom is currently considering the options for future roaming protections for customers, looking at the risk of consumer harm and how to best protect customers in this area. We will take these findings into account as part of this process.”
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