Opinion: ‘Project Fear’ turns its gaze to UK telecoms consumers

Opinion: ‘Project Fear’ turns its gaze to UK telecoms consumers
Ryan is a senior editor at TechForge Media with over a decade of experience covering the latest technology and interviewing leading industry figures. He can often be sighted at tech conferences with a strong coffee in one hand and a laptop in the other. If it's geeky, he’s probably into it. Find him on Twitter: @Gadget_Ry

Ludicrous claims have been made from both sides of the Brexit debate, but now the so-called ‘Project Fear’ is aiming to scare UK telecoms consumers.

The latest claim is a return to the dark old days of mobile roaming charges.

Ending roaming charges around Europe is touted as one of the EU’s proudest achievements for citizens. It’s been welcomed by consumers who shudder at the ‘bill shock’ they once had after even a quick trip around the continent.

The thing is, roaming charges were disappearing long before the EU stepped in – and many extended beyond the borders of Europe. With it becoming harder for operators to differentiate their offerings, the removal of roaming charges became essential.

UK network Three’s initiative ‘Feel At Home’ is one such example. Users could use their allowances the same as they would at home around Europe and in many areas of the globe including the US, Hong Kong, Australia, and 68 more destinations.

Now the UK is preparing to leave the EU, anti-Brexit campaigners are drumming up fears that roaming charges will make a return.

Any operator which reinstates roaming charges is going to receive backlash from their customers and many will switch to competitors. Regression is a lot more difficult than progression in such things.

With bills such as the ‘EU Withdrawal Bill’ transferring EU law into UK law, it’s clear the UK government is aiming to keep things as close to normal as possible for businesses and consumers. If operators were to start implementing roaming fees once more, there’s little stopping legislating against it.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said two mobile operators – Vodafone and Three – had committed to not bringing roaming fees back for British customers. Raab also said if others did not follow, the government would force them by law.

There are plenty of good arguments surrounding Brexit, but let’s not return to the pre-referendum scaremongering and lies. In a divided country we can at least agree there’s been enough of both.

25/06/21 update: For complete candour, UK operator EE has just announced a £2 daily EU roaming charge for new customers starting next year who don’t have their ‘Roam Further’ benefit added to their plans. Rival networks have kept their word not to reintroduce charges but some have lowered their fair usage caps.

Time will tell if the policy is reversed due to backlash or whether the government honours its promise to legislate against roaming fees similar to the EU. A new opinion piece has been posted with the information available almost three years on.

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