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Clarifying O2 UK’s Tougher Excess Data Charges for EU Roaming

Thursday, Jun 24th, 2021 (7:36 am) - Score 6,408
o2 uk mobile sim

Mobile operator O2 (VMO2) appears set to introduce a tougher Fair Usage Policy (FUP) for data (mobile broadband) usage when roaming around the EU. From 2nd August 2021, Pay Monthly customers will now be charged £3.50 for every GigaByte of data used over a cap of 25GB. But this is not a new approach.

According to the Independent, the operator sent the following message to several customers: “As your monthly UK data allowance is over 25GB, you can still use your data in our Europe Zone. But it’s now subject to a Roaming Limit of 25GB. Once you’ve reached this limit you’ll be charged an additional cost of £3.50/GB.”

NOTE: So-called “free” EU roaming usually means the ability to use your existing UK allowances, at no extra cost, when roaming within the EU.

Suffice to say that this has caused some concern, particularly after EE (BT), O2, Three UK and Vodafone all promised they had “no plans” to make changes post-Brexit (here). The Government also introduced some limited protection against the risk of BILL SHOCKs by adding a legislated cap of £45 on roaming charges and related warnings (first proposed in 2018).

However, the EU-UK Trade Agreement doesn’t guarantee such a position for the future, but it did contain “measures to encourage cooperation on the promotion of fair and transparent rates for international mobile roaming. It also covers obligations on net neutrality, which fulfils the UK’s dual aims of securing commitments towards an open internet and protecting the safety of users online,” said the Government in December 2020.

Naturally, a number of newspapers have thus described O2’s change as the “end of free roaming” or the “return of roaming charges,” but it should be said that data usage when roaming within the EU has always tended to be treated a bit differently from texts and calls, even when the UK was still within the EU. Indeed, O2’s rivals have long had fair usage limits, particularly for UK plans that offer unlimited data or large data allowances.

For example, EE’s Pay Monthly plans already include a 50GB roaming cap when within their own Europe Zone (i.e. if you have a usage allowance of that size or bigger) and “surcharges” will apply if you go over that (here) – this equates to 36p per MegaByte. It’s a similar story for other operators’ too, with Three UK enabling you to use up to 20GB of your data allowance at no extra cost when within their Go Roam in Europe destinations.

An O2 Spokesperson said:

“Less than 1 percent of our Pay Monthly customers reach anywhere near 25GB during occasional travel to Europe. If a customer’s UK monthly data allowance is over 25GB, from August 2 they will have a Roaming Limit of 25GB when roaming 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.”

In short, O2 are largely just adopting the same approach as their rivals, which have long had FUP caps on data for EU roaming. The reason for this goes all the way back to the EU’s original launch of their “Roam like at Home” policy in 2017 (here), which recognised that there would be some problems with data roaming because domestic charges for data varied significantly between countries.

In order to balance against such issues, the EU introduced a restriction, which meant that the eligible amount of data would be determined by operators in terms of the wholesale roaming price cap. This is the maximum price operators can charge each other for the data their consumers use abroad (currently about €3/GB in 2021 and then €2.5/GB in 2022). Operators have thus tended to translate this into a specific cap, as per above.

In practice this only really hits mobile plans with bigger or unlimited data allowances, but it’s nothing new for the industry and that’s the key point. Admittedly, it probably won’t feel like that if you’re an O2 customer and previously enjoyed a more flexible approach.

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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 X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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23 Responses
  1. Avatar photo Karl says:

    This is not only unfair but also a rip-off and as usual these companies are aloud to get away with it. I was with O2 for 10 years but I changed after their network kept dropping every call I made which they was never able to resolve. In the end they kept saying there was nothing wrong after putting up with this for 6 years. But the other problem I had was you couldn’t do a call and used data at the same time which again they said you can but the moment I made a call the 3G or 4G would disappear. So I left the worse network which I will add cost me £800 to do so. But I would recommend people to do the same.

    1. Avatar photo HDB3 says:

      Your device is faulty. There’s no network problem that could cause the symptoms you describe – and if you pause to think for a moment – how could such a network fault affect only you?

    2. Avatar photo Bill the great says:

      “which they was”

      I think the internet should come with mandatory grammar lessons before you will be allowed to comment.

    3. Avatar photo Karl says:

      HDB3 & Bill must work for O2. There is no need for rudeness. My device wasn’t faulty I had several phones with the same problems. And at one stage O2 said there was a problem with the cell tower. I stay with them for this time because at the time I had a good deal.

      I comment on this topic to help people not to have you two trolls put your noses in where they are not wanted.

    4. Avatar photo Dan J says:

      i understand your fustration, however to answer the issue regards calling and not being able to use data. that is the same in this country unless you are connected to Wifi for your data.

      I have been an O2 customer for a few years now and yes they have issues but so do all network providers and these charges only kick in if you go over 25gb. Which unless you are downloading large files constantly or streaming 24/7 you are going to struggle to use. I would just set a spend cap.

      Its also worth noting that the network providers have set a limited of £45 for out of roaming charges that the networks can charge in any 30 day period. so the most it would be is £45. which is better than several £100….

    5. Avatar photo Karl says:

      Hi Dan I’m Now with EE not only can I make a call without any dropping I can used data at the same time. I’ve just seen they are doing the same as O2 with roaming but it’s a lot better £2 a day to used your allowance or £10 for a 30day which is not too bad.

    6. Avatar photo Bubbles says:

      I think the reason you can’t make a call and use data is because your device doesn’t support VoLTE so it’s dropping down to 2G (EDGE) and that has data speeds of about 100Kbps so not exactly usable. The reason you can now on EE is because they obviously support your device for VoLTE so your call is routed through 4G not 2G.

  2. Avatar photo John says:

    EU-UK Trade Agreement doesn’t guarantee anything but Brexit still can be considered as the greatest success of this country!

    1. Avatar photo David sobis says:

      Brexit a farce

    2. Avatar photo Flagshagger says:

      go do your FBPE stuff on twitter, not everyone is anti-brexit, this isn’t reddit. UK had free roaming in Europe long before it was mandatory from the EU but people still thought the EU was responsible for it. I’m glad we’re not in that utter shambles any more. Go move to EU if you don’t like it.

    3. Avatar photo Personally says:

      I wish the government would at least revert the VAT registration requirement for smaller sellers.

      So far all Brexit has done for me is higher prices and not being able to import certain goods. I’d rather pay the admin fee on arrival than have nothing.

  3. Avatar photo Carl O says:

    I received this email yesterday and to be fair there wasn’t that much in it that affected me, if anything at all.

    1. Avatar photo Carl O says:

      Apologies for not being transparent, the email that contained information regarding this post, also contained a lot of other price changes in relation to pay monthly tariffs, which had very little impact for me.

  4. Avatar photo Barry says:

    The race to the bottom begins…

  5. Avatar photo NE555 says:

    For comparison: on Three’s Go Roam, excess usage (outside your package) is charged at £3/GB inside Europe, and £50/GB outside Europe.

    But in non Go Roam destinations, such as Canada, they charge £6,000 per gigabyte!!


  6. Avatar photo Mike says:

    Just set a bill cap…

  7. Avatar photo Ivor says:

    Good to see a more measured article from ISP review. Even as someone with pro-EU sympathies, it is utterly maddening to see newspapers etc get it so, so wrong, claiming that it’s a Brexit thing when it is something that was always possible under EU law. It hasn’t stopped social media latching onto it though.

    1. Avatar photo John says:

      Yes Ivor, but for some reason this is happening now in the UK only.

    2. Avatar photo Ivor says:

      Nope. What O2 has done is in conformance with EU law and was done by the other three operators when we were still in. It is also done by operators across the EU.

      On the other hand, EE’s new charges wouldn’t comply – though on my list of brexit losses, having to pay £10 a month when travelling isn’t high up on the list

  8. Avatar photo Guy Cashmore says:

    Hopefully the LEO systems will put an end to roaming charges very soon, OK hand held equipment doesn’t exist yet, but I see no reason why it can’t, just like Iridium and Thuraya but better.

  9. Avatar photo Abe Briggs says:

    Pure greed! Sign this petition! http://chng.it/YGQJWjwzK2

  10. Avatar photo Marko says:

    Actually, O2 is massively throttling internet speed when roaming. I’m currently in EU and my phone is unable to browse the net, check maps, and so on. The same phone with an EE sim was flying in EU with the same settings. Support is reluctant to tell the truth and have come up with some insane explanation like get a 5G phone or reset it to factory settings but if I insert a local sim card I get 5G and usable service.

Comments are closed

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