Half of Brits think European roaming fees are ‘unfair’

Ryan Daws is a senior editor at TechForge Media, with a seasoned background spanning over a decade in tech journalism. His expertise lies in identifying the latest technological trends, dissecting complex topics, and weaving compelling narratives around the most cutting-edge developments. His articles and interviews with leading industry figures have gained him recognition as a key influencer by organisations such as Onalytica. Publications under his stewardship have since gained recognition from leading analyst houses like Forrester for their performance. Find him on X (@gadget_ry) or Mastodon (@gadgetry@techhub.social)

Half of Brits think it’s unfair they have to pay additional charges for using their mobile devices while travelling elsewhere in Europe.

That was the key finding from a survey conducted by Virgin Media O2. As it’s keen to point out, it was the only UK operator not to reintroduce EU roaming fees post-Brexit.

Gareth Turpin, Chief Commercial Officer at Virgin Media O2, said:

“We know that many people will be cost-conscious when going on holiday this year, so we’re proud to stand out as the only major mobile provider to continue offering inclusive EU roaming, already saving our customers money and providing more value to those travelling post-pandemic.

Whilst we’re not able to remove fees on sunbeds and airplane seats, hopefully not having to worry about roaming fees will upgrade the holiday experience for our customers – whether it is treating themselves to a nice meal or splashing out and ordering that extra cocktail by the pool.” 

Prior to Brexit, many UK operators said they would not reintroduce EU roaming fees after the country’s departure from the bloc. Among them was Three UK:

Three UK was long seen as a pioneer in free roaming. Even prior to the EU making roaming free within the bloc for citizens, Three had its ‘Feel at Home’ initiative that allowed customers to use their devices in countries in the EU and beyond – including the US, Hong Kong, and more – without incurring additional charges.

However, Three UK gave up being the choice for roaming Brits when it brought in punitive fees post-Brexit.

“Virgin Media O2 has blown the roaming door wide open. Bucking the market trend to bring back charges, its decision to hold firm will raise eyebrows across the sector and is a blow to rivals,” said Kester Mann, Director of Consumer and Connectivity at CCS Insight, following Virgin Media’s announcement last year.

“This move could hit Three hardest. It was the first to begin to phase out roaming in 2013 and has assertively promoted its Go Roam offer as it looked to differentiate by overcoming common customer pain points.”

But it’s not just operators breaking their promises.

While serving as Brexit secretary, Dominic Raab – who is now the UK’s deputy prime minister – said the government would prevent operators from reintroducing roaming fees if they attempted to do so.

“We would legislate for a limit on roaming charges to make sure in a no-deal scenario we would protect British consumers,” Raab told the BBC in 2018.

“We’ve had some good news from businesses, like Vodafone and Three, they’ve publicly said they won’t introduce roaming fees for UK consumers travelling on the continent.”

Despite half of Brits finding it unfair they have to pay more to roam in Europe, it’s the second biggest (35%) pain point – alongside paying to choose a seat on a plane – when it comes to hidden holiday fees. Topping the list is fees when using their credit cards abroad (39%).

Virgin Media O2 assesses that, on average, its free EU roaming saves a family of four around £100 in unexpected costs across a two-week trip.

More than half of Brits (51%) said they’d treat the family to a nice meal with the £100 savings. Just under a fifth (19%) said they’d update their holiday wardrobe or get some extra cocktails by the pool.

(Photo by Nejc Soklič on Unsplash)

Related: Martin Lewis wants roaming charges to be regulated

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