O2 rules out return of European roaming charges despite Brexit

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Virgin Media O2 has refused to bring back European roaming charges post-Brexit in a move that will heap pressure on its rivals to scrap their fees.

The newly-combined company is poised to become the only mobile network not to bring back the charges, as it tries to take on BT’s dominance of the mobile and broadband markets.

Mobile operators Three, Vodafone and BT’s EE have all said they will reapply roaming charges this year – although some plans have been hit by delays.

Vodafone has pushed back the charges to the end of this month after overshooting its target of Jan 6. EE has delayed the fees from January until March, while Three is poised to bring them in from May.

Gareth Turpin, the chief commercial officer of mobile at Virgin Media O2, said its decision would save a family of four using their mobiles everyday on a two-week European holiday nearly £100 compared to roaming with its rivals.

Mr Turpin said: “With covid still scuppering plans and disrupting day to day routines for so many, we’re starting the year by giving our customers some certainty: we will not be reintroducing roaming fees in Europe.

“Across both O2 and Virgin Mobile we’re maintaining our inclusive roaming so that our customers can travel to destinations all over Europe and use their data, calls and texts just as they would in the UK.”

Mobile users were warned that Brexit would mean higher bills when calling, texting or using data in Europe because EU regulations ruling out extra fees would lapse.

Mobile operators have been given the chance to reapply roaming fees through the EU trade deal that was sealed in December 2020.

Vodafone said on Thursday that it was delaying the reintroduction of fees so it could test its technology that allows customers to buy £1 per day bundles. Its customers will be able to continue roaming free of charge until that point. 

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