Whether you’re going on holiday, visiting family or friends, or going away for business, if you’re planning on using your mobile or smartphone to browse the internet abroad, you need to be aware of the rules and potential charges involved. Not too long ago, you would have been charged for using mobile data anywhere outside of the UK, but the rules have changed. However, depending on where you’re going, you could still face extortionate fees, so make sure you know what you can do before you go.
As soon as you use your mobile abroad, you are ‘roaming’. You connect to an overseas network, so your calls and data are routed through that network provider rather than your home one, and this can cost a lot more than using data at home, depending on the country.
On 15th June 2017, the EU’s roaming rules changed, allowing EU members to ‘roam like at home’ in any EU country, as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. This means providers must charge you the same price for calls, texts and data as you would in the UK.
Some providers will have restrictions on this due to their ‘fair usage policy’, so you should always check before you travel. This means that some providers will charge you even if you’re on a generous or even unlimited data package, for using your full UK data allowance, or if you are out of the UK for a long time.
If you are going to be travelling on a ferry or cruise ship, you will be outside of the EU roaming zone. You may not be able to connect to data services and instead connect to the ship’s satellite connection, which can lead to high charges – you should check your providers policy on satellite connections before you travel.
The ‘roam like at home’ rules could change after Brexit. If the UK leaves the EU with an agreed version of Theresa May’s withdrawal deal, changes will not happen straight away – the rules will still apply until the end of the transition period on 31st December 2020, which could even be extended by a year or so.
But in the case of a no-deal Brexit, mobile providers will be free to introduce roaming charges if they want to. However, the government will limit the impact that this will have on customers:
However, Vodafone, EE and O2 have all declared that they have no current plans to introduce charges after Brexit – phew!
In countries outside of the EU, you can face huge charges for using mobile data. This includes popular destinations like Switzerland and Turkey, which may still be in Europe but aren’t EU members – it’s always worth checking if you aren’t clued up on which countries are and aren’t included in the EU. A 10-minute call can cost you up to £25 outside of Europe, and data is even more heavily priced.
As of November 2017, you must also pay UK VAT on roaming services you use outside the EU, increasing costs even more.
Thanks to EU regulations, there is a €50 data roaming cap outside of Europe, so once you reach this limit, providers must cut you off. You can only get charged more than this if you’ve agreed with your provider that you’re happy to go over this amount. But if you decide to go for your network’s roaming add-on, you may be opted out of this cut-off limit. It’s best to read into the conditions of a bundle before you purchase it.
To make sure you’re getting the best value for money with your mobile data plan, including when you go abroad, compare mobile phone deals with us today and find a plan that suits you.