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EE reignites Brexit debate by charging for data roaming in Europe

A phone with a Union Jack and Brexit

UK mobile operator EE has announced it will start charging £2 per day for new and upgrading customers to use their data in Europe.

One of the best things the EU ever did was getting rid of extra charges for roaming within the bloc but, as you may have heard, the UK left the EU at the start of this year. One of the things those who never reconciled themselves with the Brexit vote (remoaners, for short) have used as proof of the folly of leaving the EU’s suffocating embrace is the reintroduction of roaming charges, so you can imagine what a lather this news has worked them up into.

It’s certainly far from a PR win for EE and parent company BT. We’re not aware of any changes to wholesale roaming arrangements in Europe, which indicates this decision is a purely commercial one. There may well be some great reasons behind it but, by making such an announcement just before the start of the first Summer holidays after Brexit was completed, EE is leaving itself open to accusations of opportunistic profiteering.

“From January next year, EE will introduce a new flat fee of £2 a day for customers wishing to roam across 47 European destinations (with the exception of ROI which is included in domestic plans), allowing them to use their plan’s full data, minutes and texts allowance,” said an EE spokesperson. “This will apply only to new and upgrading customers signing up to EE from the 7th July 2021 and will support investment into our UK based customer service and leading UK network.”

O2 UK, meanwhile, must be ecstatic, having started the day at the centre of a media frenzy for having the temerity to extend a 25GB roaming cap already in place for its unlimited customers to the rest of them. While the timing of this move is also sub-ideal, it looks like the rest of them have similar ‘fair use’ policies in place for Europe, so that story by itself was a bit of a storm in a teacup.

“Less than 1% of our Pay Monthly customers reach anywhere near 25GB during occasional travel to Europe,” said an O2 UK spokesperson. “If a customer’s UK monthly data allowance is over 25GB, from August 2 they will have a roaming limit of 25GB in our Europe Zone. This means they can use up to 25GB of their allowance at no extra cost – we’ll text them if they get close to the limit, and again if they reach it.  A customer can still use data if they reach our roaming limit, but will be charged £3.50/GB.”

Three has also shifted its position on roaming, but again just on the cap. “Following a review of our fair use policy, we are making some changes to our Go Roam policy in the EU to bring it in line with our Go Roam Around the World fair use policy,” said a Three spokesperson. “This means from July 1 our fair use limit for data while in the EU will reduce from 20GB per month to 12GB… There is no change to our surcharge, so data usage over 12GB (up to the customer’s allowance), will remain subject to a small fee of 0.3p per MB.”

So Three has a lower fair use threshold, but charges slightly less (£3/GB) than O2. The spokesperson also confirmed Three has no plans to implement a roaming fee. Vodafone also confirmed it has no plans to introduce roaming charges, but it does already have a 25GB cap in place for roaming data use on its unlimited contracts. The only real difference between O2 and Vodafone is today’s news about the O2 cap applying to all contracts.

There’s no escaping the fact that this isn’t the best day to be working in EE’s PR team. Not only has it chosen to apparently profiteer on the back of Brexit, disincentivising upgrades and new customers in the process, but two of its competitors have explicitly ruled out following suit (for now). The bad news for remoaners is that this move is not the inevitable consequence of Brexit they would have us believe it is. But that won’t stop the moaning, of course.


8 comments

  1. Avatar B Leive 24/06/2021 @ 4:48 pm

    A case of “out of the frying pan and into the fire” now that you’ll be contending with Michael Gove’s 50,000 customs form-fillers and all the home-grown red tape.

  2. Avatar Tom 24/06/2021 @ 5:02 pm

    Looks like I’ll be switching from EE to VDF when it’s due.

  3. Avatar Alex 24/06/2021 @ 11:31 pm

    Mr Bicheno,
    When reading an article about the reintroduction of roaming charges in Europe, I’d expect you leave your self evident contempt for those who vote differently to you for yourself. It turns your otherwise fairly good article into an opinionated piece of garbage.
    Stick to the facts, stick to the story, be a journalist.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 25/06/2021 @ 9:11 am

      Right on cue.

  4. Avatar George 24/06/2021 @ 11:38 pm

    Interestingly, the current EE contracts are not affected by the change… so I can stick with mine.

  5. Avatar Frank 28/06/2021 @ 11:22 am

    This article is titled ‘ EE reignites Brexit debate by charging for data roaming in Europe’. Yet your article rightly points out that Brexit has not led to a change to wholesale rates. So how does it ‘reignite the debate’, if EE’s charges are not as a result of Brexit? EE makes no mention of Brexit in their announcement, so why should you? You presume (in my opinion rightly) that they will have had it in the back of their minds – and may even have looked to obfuscate their profiteering with the B word lurking in the background. But ‘reignite the Brexit debate’ it does not. It’s a price hike – plain and simple. Seems to me, you’re the one trying to reignite the debate.

    • Scott Bicheno Scott Bicheno 28/06/2021 @ 11:29 am

      Great contribution to the debate.

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