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ABTA Warns Brexit Could Hike EU Mobile Roaming Prices for UK Users

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016 (12:00 pm) - Score 411
europe digital agenda

The cost of making calls, sending text messages and going online via your Smartphone’s Mobile Broadband (3G, 4G) connection when in Europe could rise if the United Kingdom votes to leave the EU later this year, claims a new report from Deloitte and ABTA – The Travel Association.

The new report – ‘What Brexit might mean for UK Travel‘ – attempts to outline what a vote to leave the European Union might mean for UK holidaymakers and travel businesses. The report is important because over 29 million foreign holidays each year are made by UK people to EU countries (76% of all holidays taken) and 68% of all business trips from the UK are to EU countries (4.6 million visits).

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, said:

“Our assessment of the report’s findings is that a vote to leave will lead to uncertainties and may lead to increased costs for travel businesses and the travelling public. We recognise that people will approach this referendum by considering many factors – personal, professional, and economic – before casting their vote. ABTA has considered what a vote to leave the EU might mean purely from a travel perspective. Our view is that the potential risks and downsides are not matched by an equal upside for the traveller.”

Obviously Europe has spent many years creating all sorts of shared rules for its members (some good, some bad.. much like any government) and there’s no escaping the fact that a lot of those currently also apply to the mobile, broadband and general telecoms sector.

On the fixed line broadband side our existing policy, regulation and related infrastructure goals are already very similar to the EU (we’ve often been ahead of European policy on this front) and Brexit is unlikely to change that. But we could lose out in some areas, such as through the loss of EU privacy rules that have helped to keep Internet snooping, both commercially (advertising) or by the Government (security), in check.

Similarly the EU’s big push to make expensive mobile roaming charges a thing of the past could arguably become the biggest casualty and the one that is very difficult to replace due to all of the different countries and operators that exist.

ABTA Statement – Brexit: Top Consumer Impacts

1. Roaming Fees
The EU has recently introduced caps for mobile phone roaming charges, harmonising the maximum charges applicable to consumers for using their phones in other EU countries, and will extend this to a complete ban on additional roaming fees in April 2017. As a Regulation (531/2012), the law applying these rules would be removed by Brexit, unless the UK Government acted to ensure it remained on Statute.

2. Package Travel Directive
When booking package travel arrangements within the EU, this Directive offers consumer protection in cases of insolvency or where there is a failure to perform contracted services. As a Directive, this legislation would remain in place, unless subject to deregulation, although there might be some negotiations required to ensure reciprocal arrangements with EU.

3. Freedom of Movement
While the UK retains passport controls and sits outside of the border-free Schengen Area, UK consumers are able to travel freely within much of Continental Europe and EU citizens only experience basic border checks entering the UK, and vice versa. In Brexit travel requirements for UK-EU travel would depend on the settlement reached. However, it is worth noting that for travel outside of the EU, the UK would be able to seek new bilateral visa agreements with non-EU countries.

4. European Health Insurance Card
The EHIC is available to all EU residents and guarantees the holder access to local health services on the same terms as those available to locals. EHIC arrangements currently apply to all EU and EEA countries. In the event of Brexit, applicability would be subject to negotiations. Limiting UK travellers’ local health care access could have cost implications for travel insurance premiums.

5. Consumer Rights Directive
This Directive is implemented in the UK through the Consumer Rights Act 2015, and underpins many important areas of consumer protection across the EU, such as clear pricing rules, information requirements and a 14 day consumer right of withdrawal for many purchases of goods and services.

6. Passenger Rights
In the event of Brexit, passenger rights regulations across all modes of travel, the best-known of which is 261/2004 for compensation in cases of denied boarding or significant delays for air travel, would be removed from the UK’s Statute book, unless the UK Government took steps to replicate these in UK law. It is important to note that UK consumers are very aware of this piece of legislation and it is likely there would be calls from consumer groups to introduce comparable laws. It is also notable that, under existing rules, UK courts have often found in favour of consumers.

The report also warns of its “immediate concern” for the impact that a period of uncertainty will have on the strength of the Pound versus other currencies. A weaker Pound has a direct impact on spending power overseas, making the cost of holidaying or visiting abroad more expensive etc.

However there is every possibility that the UK Government could negotiate new agreements to rectify many of these concerns and indeed we’re sure they would, but there’s still that rather big element of doubt and uncertainty because we simply don’t know for sure what will happen in the event of a Brexit.

Add to Diigo
Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
2 Responses
  1. Avatar adslmax Real

    What a load of rubbish. It’s just try to scare us and expecting us all to voted EU in.

  2. Avatar cyclope

    Yes no doubt , because the likes of the mobile companies may loose out in some way if we leave the EU (Which i really hope we do)

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