EU roaming after Brexit: Which networks will charge?
According to EU law, a mobile network within an EU country must provide free roaming for all other networks that are members of a different EU country.
This legal rule no longer applies to UK networks, as the UK has since left the EU.
So far, EE and Vodafone are the only two networks who will charge their UK customers when using their phone in a EU country.
- What is EU roaming?
- Which networks charge for EU roaming?
- Which networks still offer free EU roaming?
- Is there a legal limit on the maximum a network can charge when roaming?
- How can I minimise charges when roaming in the EU?
What is EU roaming?
If you travel from one EU country to another EU country, you will not have to pay any additional charges to use your allowance - including data, minutes and texts.
This rule was implemented in the UK on 15 June 2017.
However, since the UK left the EU in January 2021, this no longer applies. UK networks are no longer obligated to follow this rule.
Visitors from an EU country to the UK are also no longer entitled to free roaming.
However, most UK networks still allow for free roaming when visiting an EU country. Networks may have wholesale deals and agreements with networks in EU countries, in order to continue free EU roaming.
So far, only EE, followed shortly by Vodafone, have said they will no longer provide free EU roaming.
All other UK networks have not followed suit, with most stating they have no plans to implement a charge for the foreseeable future.
Despite this, it’s more than likely more networks will eventually succumb and charge in the future. A domino effect may even occur for virtual networks that use EE or Vodafone to power their network.
Which networks charge for EU roaming?
EE and Vodafone are currently the only two networks who will charge their customers an additional fee to use their allowance when roaming within the EU.
EE: EU roaming charges
Starting from 1 January 2022, all EE customers will need to pay to use their allowance within a EU country.
If you started your contract before 7 July 2021, this will not affect you. However, this will affect you if you renew your contract after 7 July 2021 - even if you were an existing customer before this date.
When you visit an EU country, you will be automatically charged £2 a day to use your allowance.
If you are on a plan with Smart Benefits, you can choose the Roam Abroad pass to continue free roaming within the EU and not be charged at £2 a day.
Alternatively, you can also avoid the £2 a day fee by purchasing a Roam Abroad add-on for £10 a month.
Regardless of the option you pick, you will still have a fair usage policy, which allows a maximum of 50GB per month, even if your regular allowance is greater than this. If you go over 50GB within a month, you will be charged £3.50 for each additional GB you use.
|EE EU roaming option||Cost|
|Day pass||£2 per day if you don’t have an alternative pass. Charged automatically|
|Smart Benefit Roam Abroad pass||Free, if you have a Smart Benefit plan and choose the Roam Abroad pass. One free pass every month.|
|Roam Abroad add-on||£10 per month|
Vodafone: EU roaming charges
Similar to EE, most Vodafone customers will have to pay to use their allowance when visiting an EU country, starting from 1 January 2022.
If you’re on a Unlimited Data Xtra plan with 4 Xtra benefits or Limited Data Xtra plan with 4 Xtra benefits, you will still be eligible for free roaming within the EU. These plans are usually more expensive compared to a typical contract.
All other pay monthly customers will have to pay:
- Day pass at £2
- 8 day pass at £8
- 15 day pass at £15
All Vodafone customers roaming in the EU will still have a fair usage policy of 25GB maximum per month, even if your regular plan includes more data. If you go over 25GB in a month, you will have to pay an additional £3.13 per GB, regardless of your allowance, pass or add-on.
|Vodafone plan||EU roaming cost|
|Unlimited Data Xtra with 4 Xtra benefits||Free|
|Limited Data Xtra plan with 4 Xtra benefits||Free|
|All other plans||£2 per day, or £8 for 8 days, or £15 for 15 days|
The additional EU roaming charges will not apply to Vodafone pay as you go customers.
Which networks still offer free EU roaming?
All UK networks apart from EE and Vodafone still offer free EU roaming.
However, this policy may change. If a network decides to change their policy, they must inform their customers before they implement a charge, with sufficient notice.
Most networks still have a fair usage policy when using data in an EU country.
|Network||Free EU roaming||Over allowance charges||Fair usage policy|
|BT||Yes||Zone 1a: 10.45p/MB, Zone 1b: 8.67p/MB||50GB / month|
|giffgaff||Yes||0.36p/MB||20GB / month|
|iD Mobile||Yes||£0.10/MB to £2/MB - depending on location.||Excessive roaming abroad for 4 consecutive months is not allowed|
|Lebara||Yes||-||Varies, depending on plan|
|O2||Yes||£3.50/GB||25GB / month|
|Plusnet||Yes||10p/MB (Same as UK prices)||15GB / month|
|Sky Mobile||Yes||Same as UK prices||No fair usage policy|
|SMARTY||Yes||£1/GB||12GB / month|
|Talkmobile||Yes||6p/MB||15GB / month|
|Tesco Mobile||Yes||Same as UK prices||Excessive usage - no definitive amount|
|Three||Yes||-||12GB / month|
|Virgin Mobile||Yes||Same as UK prices||Excessive roaming abroad for 4 consecutive months is not allowed|
|VOXI||Yes||Must purchase VOXI Data Extra||20GB / month|
Is there a legal limit on the maximum a network can charge when roaming?
If there is any charge involved when roaming within the EU, your network will have to follow some limits and will have a maximum amount that they can charge you.
By law, for automatic charges when roaming internationally, a network can only charge a maximum of £45 (£54 including VAT) per month. If you reach this limit, you will have to buy a separate add on for additional allowances.
If you are approaching your data allowance or you are approaching the fair usage policy, your network must inform you when you are within 80% and when once you have reached 100%.
Once you have reached 100% of your limit, you will no longer have access to mobile data and your network cannot charge you for additional data - unless you choose to bypass this limit and accept the additional charges.
How can I minimise charges when roaming in the EU?
There are several ways in which you can avoid or minimise EU roaming charges.
If your network provides free EU roaming, you still may be charged if you go over your allowance or over the fair usage policy.
It’s always important to read the terms and conditions of your plan for more information.
Use less data - when using your phone abroad, it’s always advisable to use less data to avoid any unexpected charges.
Buy a local SIM - if your phone is unlocked, you can temporarily swap it for a local SIM. This may work out cheaper if your network charges for EU roaming
Buy a roaming data add-on - roaming add-ons or passes are often significantly cheaper compared to out of tariff charges. Check your account or app with your network to purchase an add-on.
Can I roam in the EU for free?
Yes, you can roam in the EU for free, except for EE and Vodafone customers.
Are there any limits when roaming in the EU?
Yes, your network will usually have a fair usage policy. If you go over this limit, you will be charged an out of tariff rate, which can be expensive.
How much does Vodafone charge for EU roaming?
To use your Vodafone allowance in the EU, you must pay £2 per day, or £8 for 8 days, or £15 for 15 days.
EU data roaming is free with the following plans:
- Unlimited Data Xtra with 4 Xtra benefits plan
- Limited Data Xtra plan with 4 Xtra benefits plan.
How much does EE charge for EU roaming?
EE will charge you to use your allowance in the EU
- £2 per day
- or £10 per month with a Roam Abroad add-on
If you're on a Smart Benefit plan, you can choose the Roam Abroad pass at no extra cost.