But has all that changed now the UK isn't part of the EU?
What are roaming charges?
For a number of years, anyone travelling through mainland Europe and using their phone would pay charges for using mobile phone networks. These were called roaming charge, due to the fact that you were indeed roaming around and not at home. And they led to some pretty hefty bills if you watched a few episodes on Netflix without realising.
To see a more detailed explanation, read our mobile roaming charges explained article.
Things changed in 2017 when legislation was passed that ensured EU members could travel through all the member states without incurring these charges. Of course, Britain voted to leave the EU and as of 31st December the transition period ended, leaving the UK outside the bloc.
While fisherman may rejoice, anyone hoping to travel through the continent will now have to contend with some bigger phone bills. To clarify this, the UK government website states the following:
‘From 1 January 2021, the guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will end.
Check with your phone operator to find out about any roaming charges you might get from 1 January 2021.
A new law means that you’re protected from getting mobile data charges above £45 without you knowing.
Once you reach £45, you need to opt in to spend more so that you can continue using the internet while you’re abroad. Your phone operator will tell how you can do this.’
So, following the government’s advice, we checked with the main UK networks to see what you can expect from 1 Jan 2021.
Will EE charge for roaming in the EU?
At the time of writing EE's website stated that ‘Our customers enjoy inclusive roaming in Europe and beyond, and we don't have any plans to change this based on the Brexit outcome. So our customers going on holiday and travelling in the EU will continue to enjoy inclusive roaming.’
The site also provides a checker so you can confirm that the destination you’re visiting remains free from any potential roaming charges.
Read our how does roaming work on EE? guide for more information.
Will O2 charge for roaming in the EU?
O2's site is less clear on how things will change, but after speaking with customer services we were given the following, slightly vague, response:
‘Nothing is changing while the UK is in the transition period until the end of this year . We currently have no plans to change our roaming services across Europe, and that we're working closely with the UK Government to maintain the current EU 'Roam like at home' arrangements after the transition period finishes.’
With the political use of language, we’d recommend contacting O2 before travelling abroad just to confirm that you’re able to use your device without the risk of roaming charges.
Read our how does roaming work on O2? guide for more information.
Will Three charge for roaming in the EU?
We had to contact Three as there was no information on its website. A Three spokesperson told Tech Advisor: ‘Three is the global leader in international roaming and already offers roaming at no extra cost for its customers in over 70 destinations including the US, Australia and New Zealand. We will retain this great customer benefit regardless of Brexit negotiations allowing our customers to continue using their phones when they travel within the EU.’
Read our how does roaming work on Three? guide for more information.
Will Vodaphone charge for roaming in the EU?
At the time of writing there was no clear information on the Vodaphone site about whether it would change its roaming policy when the transition period ends. Thankfully, after contacting the company, we received this statement from Vodafone UK Spokesperson: ‘We have no plans to reintroduce roaming charges.’
Good news then for Vodaphone customers intending to travel in the near future. Read our how does roaming work on Vodaphone? guide for more information.
If you find that you might be due some extra charges or are considering changing your provider, be sure to read our guide to the best phone network.
Also, here are our tech predictions for 2021.