A document leaked from the European Parliament suggests that British tourists will still have to pay mobile phone operators’ roaming charges when they travel in the EU after Brexit.
While the European Commission announced last week that, from June this year, ‘consumers will be able to call, send SMS or surf on their mobile at the same price they pay at home’ when travelling in the EU, the European parliament committee that helped pioneer the legislation has now called into doubt whether this agreement can apply to British customers.
The document, an analysis on UK withdrawal from the EU leaked to The Guardian, suggests that British holidaymakers and business travellers will still face hefty bills if they use their phone within the EU from 2019, unless the British government strikes a favourable deal.
The document was drawn up this month by the European Parliament’s Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, and endorsed by MEPs. It states that ‘regulation (EU) No 531/2012 on roaming will no longer apply with respect to the UK, impacting business and other travellers to and from the UK’ and that ‘transitional arrangements will be necessary’.
According to 2014 data from Uswitch, before roaming charges started to be reduced 20% of UK mobile users travelling to the EU faced higher than usual bills for usage, with the average charge added to bills of £61, and 17% of those affected facing bills of £100 or more.
Since then pressure from the EU and competitive forces have induced phone operators to reduce their roaming charges, in anticipation of the expected ban this year.
The chair of the EU committee, Polish MEP Jerzy Buzek, writes ‘It is important to recall that, given the short time available for their preparation and the fact that the UK position is still unknown, [the analysis] can only constitute a very first assessment of the situation.’
‘It is therefore essential that the parliamentary committees be closely involved in following the negotiations and in the consent procedure as well as in discussions on any transitional arrangements and the future relationship, so that parliament can benefit from the substantive knowledge held in the committees.’
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron encouraged the government to fight to keep reduced roaming charges in negotiations with the EU, saying ‘This shows again why the British people must get the final say on the government’s Brexit deal once its full impact becomes clear.’