Virgin Media O2 not to reintroduce EU roaming charges

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Virgin and O2 not to reintroduce EU roaming charges
Virgin Media O2 users will be able to make calls and texts and use their mobile data to access the internet in the same way as they would in the UK with no extra charges. Photo: Getty

Virgin Media O2 mobile customers will not have to pay roaming charges when using their phones in the EU. Several other networks are set to reintroduce the extra fees due to Brexit.

Virgin Media O2 users will be able to make calls and texts and use their mobile data to access the internet in the same way as they would in the UK with no extra charges.

Vodafone (VOD.L), EE and Three are planning to bring back roaming fees this year for customers travelling to Europe.

Before Brexit, customers were able to use their phone plans in any EU country after the bloc got rid of roaming charges in 2017.

But the Brexit deal struck in December 2020 said mobile operators could reintroduce the charges if they chose to.

Virgin Media O2 said a family of four travelling abroad for two weeks could pay an extra £100 ($136) in fees, based on analysis of rates from other providers.

“We’re starting the year by giving our customers some certainty: we will not be reintroducing roaming fees in Europe for customers on O2 or Virgin Mobile," said Gareth Turpin, of Virgin Media O2, in a media statement.

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“Unlike all the other major mobile networks who are bringing back roaming fees, we will not be following suit.

“With many Brits now looking to plan a trip abroad, we’ve got our customers covered and extra roaming charges will be one less thing to worry about.”

In June, EE was the first mobile network to announce that standard roaming charges will return for customers travelling to the EU.

The company said that new customers, or those who renew their contract on or after 7 July 2021, will be charged a flat fee of £2 a day to use their phone plans in Europe from 3 March this year.

Roaming charges
Roaming charges by providor. Chart: Uswitch.com

EE customers will be able to purchase a Roam Abroad Pass for £10 which lasts 30 days. 

This is "cheaper than the standard fee but still represents a large increase in costs for millions of EE customers," said consumer group Which?

Vodafone will also charge £2 a day for EU roaming for customers who sign up for a new contract or renew their existing one on or after 11 August 2021. The charges will begin at the end of January.

The company also offers a deals to avoid the fee — Vodafone users will be able to pay £1 a day for an eight or 15-day pass.

EE and Vodafone are planning to keep free roaming in the Republic of Ireland.

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Three is set to introduce fees in May. The mobile provider will bring in the £2 daily charge for people who joined or upgraded after 1 October 2021.

Sue Davies, Which? head of consumer protection policy, said: "After the disappointing news that EE and Vodafone are planning to reintroduce roaming charges in the coming months, it is reassuring that Virgin Media O2 is offering some certainty to customers on O2 or Virgin Mobile by not reintroducing roaming fees in Europe this year.

“As the UK continues to negotiate trade deals, it should take the opportunity to lower the cost of roaming for consumers travelling around the world. The UK and EU should also work to strike a deal on roaming charges to stop companies chipping away at the roaming benefits customers have become used to and to ensure the high charges people used to face do not return.”

Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at Uswitch.com, said: “With three of the big four mobile providers bringing roaming charges back in 2022, it’s a breath of fresh air to have one company make this pledge to their customers.

“This promise from Virgin Media O2 means that O2 mobile customers will be able to enjoy their holidays without running up £2 a day roaming charges.

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“Roaming charges are deeply unpopular with mobile users, who rightly feel aggrieved by a return to charges to access minutes and data they have already paid for.

“It will be interesting to see whether consumers feel strongly enough about roaming that Virgin Media O2 starts pulling in more mobile customers.

“Existing customers of EE, Vodafone or Three should check their contract to see whether these new charges apply to them. If you signed up before the specific dates, you should be safe."

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