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View from the House: ‘No deal’ risks return of roaming charges

PUBLISHED: 14:40 19 February 2019

Archant

In 2003, as minister for communications, I was on the receiving end of the UK’s first ever official 3G mobile call.

We have come a long way since then. Last week, I met technical experts discussing how to roll out 5G services as quickly as possible across the UK.

But we are also having to look again at more mundane aspects of mobile – how much we have to pay to use our phones in Europe.

Two weeks ago, whilst attention was diverted elsewhere, the government quietly laid the Mobile Roaming (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 before a committee in the House of Commons. This – effectively – paved the way for mobile roaming charges to return overnight in the event of a No Deal Brexit.

Ministers were well aware of what they were doing.

A government note accompanying the regulations admitted that it ignored the pleas of consumer groups to keep the current arrangements. Instead, it had “decided not to adopt this proposal”.

Mobile roaming charges were scrapped in 2017 after years of campaigning. Overnight, British travellers to EU countries were told to “roam like home”. Before then, many had suffered large, unexpected bills for accessing emails or sending pictures.

Ministers say that mobile phone companies have no plans to raise roaming charges.

However, MoneySavingExpert.com has reported that only two of the 12 major mobile operators have committed to keeping roaming free after Brexit.

The threat of roaming charges is another clear reminder of the damaging impact crashing out of the EU with No Deal would have on people’s everyday lives.

The government must now make clear how many network companies it has asked to maintain the current roaming regime. It must also clarify whether, if the prime minister’s deal gets through, consumers will not pay roaming charges in Europe in the future.

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