Govt ‘can’t guarantee’ no roaming charges in no-deal Brexit

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The government has admitted it cannot rule out a return to the days of mobile roaming charges when travelling in Europe if the UK leaves the EU without a deal in place.

In the latest release of documents outlining preparations for a 'no deal' scenario, the Department of Digital, Media, Culture and Sport said that in the unlikely event no agreement is reached, EU-based operators would be able to charge UK operators for providing roaming services after March 29th 2019.

Brexit secretary Dominic Raab said in an interview with the BBC: "I can't give a cast-iron guarantee [there would be no charges]. What I can say is that the government would legislate to limit the ability of roaming charges to be imposed on customers."

Currently, EU regulations ban additional charges for using a mobile phone in another member state, while operators are also required to apply a default limit of €50 (£44.62) to any overseas activity – whether or not this takes place within the EU.

While this cap would also no longer apply after Brexit, the government has said it would legislate to ensure mobile operators in the UK are subject to the same limits as present.

However, it acknowledged it would have no powers to prevent European operators from imposing their own charges on UK operators using their networks, which may then be passed on to consumers.

It would therefore be up to individual providers to make arrangements with their European counterparts in order to ensure consumers receive the services they expect when abroad – including roaming costs.

"The availability and pricing of mobile roaming in the EU would be a commercial question for the mobile operators," the guidance stated. "As a consequence, surcharge-free mobile roaming in the EU may not continue to be standard across every mobile phone package from that point."

The government stressed such a scenario remains unlikely, but in the event there is no deal, it advised consumers to check their operator's policies before travelling post-Brexit, make sure they know how to turn off roaming on their device, and familiarise themselves with alternatives to mobile networks, such as where free Wi-Fi is available.