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Vodafone UK and EE Delay Reintroduction of EU Roaming Charges

Thursday, January 6th, 2022 (3:27 am) - Score 6,360
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Mobile operators Vodafone and EE (BT) have moved to mildly delay the planned reintroduction of EU roaming charges, which will eventually see most customers being charged £2 per day to use their UK allowances (calls, texts and data / mobile broadband) across related countries. Previously, you could do this at no extra cost.

Last year’s decision by both operators, and Three UK, to reintroduce EU roaming fees was highly controversial because the same companies had previously said they would continue the practice of free roaming post-Brexit. In short, consumers were given a misleading expectation of the future, and the operators’ plans promptly changed.

NOTE: Even under the so-called “free” roaming rules of old, a Fair Usage Policy (FUP) with data caps would often still apply in order to prevent abuse on internet services (i.e. because not all EU countries offer unlimited data allowances on their domestic plans).

The reality is of course that the recent EU-UK Trade Agreement didn’t guarantee free EU roaming for the future (EU policy), but it did contain vague “measures to encourage cooperation on the promotion of fair and transparent rates for international mobile roaming services in ways that can help promote the growth of trade among the Parties and enhance consumer welfare.

The Government also introduced some limited protection against the risk of future EU roaming BILL SHOCKs by adding a legislated cap of £45 on roaming charges and related warnings (first proposed in 2018), although they stopped short of forcing operators to retain free roaming. Mind you, this didn’t stop yours truly running up a bill of £86.42 for a couple of calls and just 5MB of data when travelling outside the UK and EU zone last month, which seems positively Jurassic in the age of modern IP connected communications.

Nevertheless, EE ended up announcing that they would reintroduce roaming charges from the start of January 2022, while Vodafone aimed to do the same on 6th January 2022 and Three UK planned to reintroduce them from 23rd May 2022. At present, only O2 (VMO2) has stuck to their “no plans to reintroduce roaming charges” commitment – for now, but we’ve long since learnt never to trust “no plans” style statements.

The good news today, according to the BBC, is that Vodafone has slightly delayed the reintroduction of EU roaming charges until the end of January 2022. This is apparently because they need more “time for further testing“, such as to ensure that the change can be implemented smoothly and without billing errors etc. On top of that, EE has significantly delayed the reintroduction until March 2022, which it reportedly put down to some unspecified technical delays.

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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 Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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31 Responses
  1. Jack says:

    Its better to just get a prepaid SIM whilst your roaming now I already have with Orange Spain just top up €5 once every 5 months to keep the card active then when you go abroad use it to activate a monthly bundle. I have also found the service is genrally better using a local SIM over roaming although its very greedy of Vodafone to reintroduce roaming in the countries they already operate in as UK Voda sims connect to the foreign Vodafones signal and its no different to how it is in the UK service compared to say using an EE SIM abroad.

    1. Kevin says:

      “its very greedy of Vodafone to reintroduce roaming in the countries they already operate in as UK Voda sims connect to the foreign Vodafones signal and its no different to how it is in the UK”

      Vodafone operators abroad are independent of Vodafone UK, despite being part of the same group. As for Vodafone being greedy, well since UK mobile operators are no longer FORCED to comply with EU roaming legislation (d/t Brexit), they’re free to charge whatever they want wrt roaming.

    2. Onephat says:

      Agreed. I use a T-Mobile SIM in the US. Not only can you save a small fortune now but as you say, it’s generally much faster.

    3. Rich says:

      For those who entered contracts before the changes were announced and are still in those contracts, it’s worth reading your terms & conditions and stay with the contract if you wish to retain roaming. Apart from price increases to which you agree at the start in most contracts, there’s no unilateral way to remove the roaming from the earlier contracts. What they will do, when you want to discuss a new phone, or increase your data plan, is switch you onto a new contract. The new contract will remove the roaming rights. Generally if you’re in a sim only contract and buy your own phone you are better able to avoid being switched onto a new contract. The downside is you won’t get more data for less or any other enhancement offer benefits being promoted; you’ll be stuck in time, so to speak. Take the time to scan through the irritating small print (some are better than others at pointing out significant contract terms) and you should spot the relevant provisions that relate to roaming. Remember, to change a contract requires the agreement of both parties.

  2. S.G says:

    I have found that in general Vodafone performs SIGNIFICANTLY better when roaming than in the UK 🙂 Less the ping of course.

    1. Dominic Davis-Foster says:

      My supposedly 4G O2 sim struggles to get even 3G here, but when abroad got 4G fine. At first I thought it was my phone’s fault.

  3. Danny says:

    If I have the travel add on with EE smart benefits does this still effect me?

  4. Phil says:

    So all the costs involved in updating their billing systems just shows how much extra profit they hope to make from roaming charges. Operators also ban Wi-Fi calling from overseas, which wouldn’t add any extra costs for the mobile phone network concerned, simply to force people to roam for calls and texts.

    I hope that by now most people are using other messaging services for voice and texts, so don’t need to roam onto a network given Wi-Fi is ubiquitous this day and age and more often than not completely free, and the operators end up making a loss on implementing the billing system, that will teach them a lesson to say one thing and do another!

    1. Steve says:

      Its dead easy to use wifi calling abroad at no extra cost. You simply use a VPN app and change to a UK server (to get a UK IP address) so that the UK operator still thinks you’re in the UK. Been using EE wifi calling abroad this way since 2015 and never been charged a penny for calls to/from UK.

    2. PoliticalGenius says:

      If only there was a law stopping these greedy operators for doing whatever they felt like to fleece their users. Maybe it could be agreed and led by a group of countries collectively mandating fair play to all their members so that no one members users are directly exploited by unchecked corporate greed. Maybe they could also force the free and open roaming of mobile phones throughout all the countries that were in the group as well.

  5. Dean says:

    I was about to add a reply stating that costs were going up everywhere and Vodafone needs the increased costs to cover salaries, etc…

    But I quickly checked, their revenue is €44bn with profits of €5bn, and with annual price increases baked in, I quickly stopped having any sympathy with the argument that Vodafone EU subsidiaries couldn’t pass on free roaming if they wanted to.

    I would also add, with the amount of time it took Vodafone UK to test and implement Visual Voicemail on iPhones, they may not finish the testing until we’re back in the EU anyway!

    1. Phil says:

      Exactly, plus the arrangements are reciprocated, so they do a deal to provide reasonable roaming costs for visitors to the UK whilst the same foreign Vodafone networks do the same.

      Or at the very least, if they are going to charge, why not also give the option for the customer to use Wi-Fi calling rather than deliberately block its use with IP filters, as that has no cost implications to the mobile operator at all. Seems they are happy for Wi-Fi calling in the UK when it saves them money due to having less people on their cell towers or avoiding complaints about lack of coverage, but not when abroad.

      Also very telling is Vodafone have very strict legal terms in their contract that if a customer enables Wi-Fi calling from abroad by using a VPN set up, or other method to defect their IP address filters, they reserve the right to charge the customer the roaming rate! So it is quite clear this is a money making exercise, not just an exercise in covering additional costs they suggest they have now by making roaming agreements.

  6. Steve says:

    How about some sort of campaign to get a local SIM card when travelling abroad, then if the big tour operators linked forces with local resellers plus a retail champion like Martin Lewis advocated this, could that be enough for the networks to reconsider roaming fees once they lose custom? Just putting it out there for opinions.

    1. Dean says:

      Well, there is a market opportunity here for someone, probably the likes of Apple as it would take some corporate and marketing clout, to create a Global Virtual Sim which effectively does away with roaming entirely with the Sim working in all countries under one tariff under one virtual network provider.

      Perhaps a bit like what Lebara do for UK/EU & India, where EU/UK can make calls and use data freely, but a global version instead. Or maybe WorldSim.

  7. ad47uk says:

    Greed, just greed, there is no need to reintroduce roaming charges as these networks won networks in other countries, they are making Brexit as an excuse to make even more money.
    Makes no difference to me as I doubt I will go abroad again.

    Really is a shame that these networks are so large and seems to control the market and while I have to use them, I have the cheapest service I can get from Smarty. They are not going to make a load of money from me.

    1. PoliticalGenius says:

      Brexit isn’t “an excuse”, Brexit is the CAUSE. After we left Europe there was no longer any of those pesky bureaucrats and their fairness laws getting the way of corporate greed. Exactly as designed, the corporations now have free reign to do pretty much whatever they want with the full endorsement of Boris and the other pigs at the trough. That’s exactly what they’re doing – ripping us off.

      Brexit was and is an absolute s**t show and is exactly what those who voted out deserved. Unfortunately the rest of us are also have to live with it.

    2. Guy Fawkes says:

      Couldn’t have said it better myself PoliticalGenius.

      But sadly Brexiteers will never own up to the mess they created (led by donkeys such as Farage). The fact that the previous poster thinks Brexit has nothing to do with the re-introduction of EU roaming charges speaks volumes about the intelligence of your average Brexiteer.

    3. Steve says:

      I agree with these comments, however I have noticed something very distinct when I talk politics with those who voted to leave (I purposefully avoid terms of remainers and leavers as they seem politically stoked). The majority of those who voted leave have told me they did it because someone in their family convinced them, and that someone usually had an anti EU sentiment to begin with. My aunt for example voted leave as her husband convinced her, then asked about the supply chain shortages and things like roaming fees. The problem I have as someone who voted to remain is not to appear I’m gloating. Even though I could have prophesied these issues, who would have believed me when we had populist politics at the helm telling people what they wanted to hear? And we are where we are now, I can’t see any way back in at least two generations and even then I doubt it will be a reflection of what we had.

      The least worst option for me is aligning to EU regulations in return for equality in trading markets. This would address issues such as roaming charges.

      Sadly, in politics, the UK has always sought to blame someone else when things go wrong. I always think to the Yes, Minister episode about the Euro sausage and how fitting that was, and still is, right to this day.

      Bringing it back to telecoms, for this is why we’re here and not really to talk politics (as I don’t want to disenfranchise any leave voters either), I think some sort of virtual global roaming service is practical and Apple would be well placed as suggested. I also think Ofcom should ban networks restricting WiFi calls abroad and change permissible fees. Given we have a worldwide reliable IP service across the networks, we are no longer in the 1990s when data roaming was justifiable. The regulator has again not kept up. Maybe Ofcom needs to get into gear? I’m really not convinced the regulator is up to the job though.

    4. ad47uk says:

      @PoliticalGenius, total and complete rubbish, there is no reason whatsoever for roaming charges. Brexit is not the cause, greedy mobile phone companies are the cause.
      Brexit is a great idea, and we should have done it years aga, the problem is not Brexit, but this horse muck of a government we have in power, not that any of them is much cop.
      People voted to get out of the e.u, and we did, maybe if more people got off their backside and voted, they may have changed the outcome, but they decided not to. As I said, it matters not to me, the mobile phone companies can charge what they like for roaming charges, but it is still greed.

      @Guy Fawkes, people voted, if you are going to blame someone, then blame the person that gave us the vote in the first place. As i said above, if people was that bothered then more would have got off their backside to vote, 72% turn out, not very good is it. Strange thing is, a lot of the people I chat to and complain about Brexit are the ones that did not vote.

      Anyway, it is done, we voted out, and now we need to live with it, just need a government that have some guts.

    5. PoliticalGenius says:

      @ad47u It’s this kind of flawed and misguided logic that led us to this position in the very first place.

      Brexit was and is a *TERRIBLE* idea for EXACTLY the reason you highlight. Almost ALL governments are “horse muck” – you even say so yourself. Brexit was NEVER going to work for that EXACT reason because governments can’t be trusted to do the right thing – especially right wing corrupt governments like the Conservatives. We do NOT live in a utopic world where the incompetent corrupt governments we (knew!) we had are suddenly going to do the right thing. This was ALWAYS where Brexit was headed and it was wilful ignorance or downright stupidity to base your voting otherwise.

      When there were no controls in place from the EU to stop the corporate scum from screwing us over (this includes some other EU countries too I hasten to add) they did. Repeatedly and consistently. The EU then collectively agreed that control was needed as neither companies nor some governments could be trusted not to steal from people. It worked because while maybe the UK Government were perfectly happy for UK companies to steal from UK citizens when they were getting their cut they certainly were not happy with the thought of French companies stealing from UK citizens and the money going to French companies and government. So collectively they all agreed to stop the corporate greed and legislate it. This was a GOOD THING.

      Those protections and controls the EU provided were MEANT to be bureaucratic and onerous because frankly, companies and governments can’t be trusted. Those who whined and bitched the most were usually those we were stopped from conning or stealing because of those same rules. Either that or they were using it as a smoke screen for their racist xenophobic agendas.

    6. ad47uk says:

      @PoliticalGenius, governments are horse muck, but that also includes those in the E.U and the ones that run the E.U, the unelected and the so called elected. at least with our government, we can at least try to get rid of them after a certain amount of time. The bosses of the E.U are unelected, chosen by governments of different countries and yet the E.u say it is democratic. You say about corruption, what makes you think that the E.u is any different?
      our government can put rules in place to stop greed, sure they can not do much about roaming charges unless they put a tax on mobile phone companies, but others they can. but there are problems, one of them is that the government is for the rich the second is that it sometimes go very wrong, look at the energy companies and the way that have gone with the cap.

      I believe Brexit is a good thing, just need a government to get it done correctly, other countries do fine out of the E.U.

      i knew it would not be long before someone came up the racist xenophobic agenda bit. I voted to get out of the E.u, because it is about time we started being a country and not part of some corrupted organisation that want to be a united states of europe.

    7. Steve says:

      Okay, perhaps it’s a good idea to step back from the Brexit fundamental debate as I don’t really see the underlying arguments about its merits being relevant here, but what I would hope we can agree on is the reintroduction of roaming fees across the EU would not have been possible were we still part of that community. I would certainly like to see a government use this opportunity to take a firm approach on the network operators and make it impermissible to charge UK customers for roaming in EU. I think this is reasonable and proportionate given reciprocal arrangements already in place for the operators, and we have seen positive moves with unfair mobile charges already, such as networks being barred from network locking out of contact handsets.

    8. PoliticalGenius says:

      @ad47uk you’re missing the point (which is what got us here in the first place)

      We agree that all governments are corrupt ergo your expectation that this was going to be anything other than a complete shafting of the people was flawed from the start. Who cares if you can vote them out after 4-5 years? You’re just voting in another, equally corrupt, government. I don’t understand why this is even an argument when you concede they’re ALL as bad.

      When everyone is out for themselves and everyone is corrupt and selfish it means no one lets anyone else get one over on them. In the case of the EU, the member states HAVE to come to a single agreement that everyone is happy with, that doesn’t favour any one member state more than another and doesn’t exploit the people. This tends to mean that laws and rules tend towards being fair for everyone (in so much that they either rip everyone off equally or as is more usually the case benefit everyone equally). So it when you do have a collection of more than a couple of countries who are out for themselves, this has a moderating effect.

      Does corruption still occur? Of course it does but I’d suggest in a FAR lower number than if countries were left to their own devices as counties actively block themselves being exploited by other countries.

      But as for the rest of your response – what on earth does “started being a country” mean exactly? That makes no sense considering we were one of the only countries who retained their own currency. It just sounds like meaningless Brexit rhetoric, much like your claim of “unelected bureaucrats”. That was a Brexit slogan that was debunked long ago and displays a flagrant misunderstanding of how the EU works.

      “…the sentence ‘the EU is governed by unelected bureaucrats’ is directed at the role of the Commission. The Commission is composed of a bureaucracy or administration, divided into Directorates-General (DGs), run by civil servants, and a ‘government’, the College of Commissioners, where each member state nominates a commissioner that has to be approved by the European Parliament. However, although it is technically true to call one part of the Commission, the civil servants, ‘unelected bureaucrats’, the expression equally applies to national civil servants, which also happen to be ’unelected bureaucrats’. Every government has bureaucrats which are by nature unelected. While the EU has around 33,000 of them, the British government employs over 400,000 civil servants. ”

      Your post is brimming with the rubbish that the Leave campaign regurgitated that were a mix of half truths and downright lies that have LONG been debunked. Many of the leave campaign have even admitted a lot of it was lies.

      As someone else said – the simple fact is if we were still in Europe we wouldn’t be paying this. But you keep telling yourself it’s a good thing.

  8. Jazzy says:

    I am on GiffGaff now, having recently left EE and they still offer free EU roaming (just double checked) so it just seems to be the big boys being greedy

    My partners sim only service with SMARTY seems to still have roaming too

    1. Guy Fawkes says:

      I wouldn’t get too cocky. Its a matter of ‘when” not ‘if’ Giffgaff also introduce EU roaming charges. Sooner or later all UK networks will charge for EU roaming. So enjoy it whilst its still free/inclusive.

  9. Optimist says:

    I’m all in favour of offering tariffs which include roaming in EU countries.

    I’m also in favour of offering tariffs which include roaming in non-EU countries, in addition to or instead of EU countries.

    As for myself, I’d opt for a UK only tariff, which would presumably be cheaper than any of the above.

  10. Alan says:

    Wi-Fi calling using UK VPN aboard. So I have Wi-Fi calling on my pay & go Asda Mobile sim. I’m moving to Rome. I can use Wi-Fi calling for free then via UK VPN? Obviously I’ll be getting an Italian sim & number for business purposes. What is the best network for coverage in Italy? Obviously I’ll be in Rome most of the time. I was looking at Windtre for home fibre & mobile.

    1. Jack says:

      If your looking at keeping your UK mobile number your best moving it to Andrews & Arnolds VoIP SIP service and having texts diverted to your email and the calls going to a SIP based app on your mobile or a phone connected to your home internet in Italy.

  11. Alan says:

    I’m not looking to retain my UK number. It’s a permanent move. Windtre; any thoughts?

  12. Dominic Davis-Foster says:

    What I don’t understand is why I can roam for free throughout most of the world but not the EU. Do we have some special treaty with those countries?

    1. says: says: says:

      Which networks let you “roam for free throughout most of the world but not the EU”?
      Really intrigued to know!

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