British holidaymakers face a return of ‘bill shock’ roaming charges when they travel in the European Union after Brexit, despite yesterday’s European Parliament vote to scrap the fees within the EU.
MEPs voted in Strasbourg to abolish call, text and data charges for mobile phone users travelling in the EU from June 15 this year.
But Britain could be dropped from the arrangement once it leaves, in March 2019, according to Finnish MEP Miapetra Kumpula-Natri, who drafted the Parliament’s roaming bill.
“After Brexit, it’s the market, the operators, that will decide the prices,” she told the i.
“If the UK operators get good deals with other European companies, roaming might be cheap. If not, it can be very expensive.”
Up to £3,000 per Gb Roaming fees in the EU have been falling for almost a decade, but they are still high outside the bloc.
For example, UK travellers using mobile phones in Serbia pay about £3,000 per Gb for mobile data usage.
In neighbouring Croatia, an EU member, there will be no extra fees.
After Brexit this will change,” Mrs Kumpula-Natri said. “Britain will be in the same situation as Serbia with no EU regulation to keep the roaming prices low. So UK travellers could pay up to £3,000 pounds extra per Gb of mobile data.”
Unless Prime Minister Theresa May can strike a deal on roaming alongside the government’s planned trade agreement with the EU27, then charges will be reinstated for British travellers after less than two years.
Mobile networks in the 27 other EU states could charge British travellers excruciating fees as high as €50 (£43) for listening to a song on Spotify – which would be in line with what visitors from the United States currently pay.
The European Commission has already ruled out a quick bilateral deal between the UK and the EU to cover roaming charges: EU Budget Commissioner Gunther Oettinger said last year that under World Trade Organisation rules, any bilateral agreement outside a comprehensive free-trade deal would have to be extended to all 164 WTO members.