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Three follows Vodafone and EE in bringing back mobile roaming charges in Europe

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Three has followed Vodafone and EE and become, ironically, the third UK mobile phone company to bring back roaming charges in Europe.

We covered EE’s introduction of roaming charges here and Vodafone’s introduction of roaming charges here.

From 23rd May 2022, Three will charge to use your existing minutes and data allowance in Europe. This applies to contracts signed or upgraded from 1st October 2021, so if you sit tight on your current deal you will not be impacted.

The changes are outlined on the Three website here in a press release which states that “there are now too many unknowns” to continue offering it for free. This is despite the fact that Three offered free roaming in many countries in Europe and worldwide before the EU directive ever came into affect.

A lot of Three’s customers will have joined the network in order to enjoy free roaming despite the shaky mobile signal in many parts of the UK.. Now that the benefit is being scrapped many are likely to look at other networks which have better UK coverage.

The new charges will be:

  • £2 per day in the EU (the same as EE and Vodafone will charge, by amazing coincidence)
  • £5 per day outside the EU

It is worth noting that EE and Vodafone will begin charging in January, so Three customers get an additional four months of free roaming.

‘Pay As You Go’ customers are not impacted by this change.

If you are currently under contract with Three, you will not pay until after your next contract renewal. Any contracts renewed during September will continue to include free roaming after 22nd May where it is a published benefit – it will only be added to the T&C on contracts issued from 1st October.

What will O2 do?

O2 – the remaining holdout – has said that it has no plans to reintroduce roaming charge. It is introducing a ‘fair use’ cap of 25GB per month in the EU, with additional charges for any usage above this level.

Under the Brexit trade agreement, it was stated that the UK and EU would “co-operate on promoting transparent and reasonable rates” for mobile charges but no guarantees were made on roaming charges. At the time, the four major UK mobile networks said that they had no intention to introduce roaming charges which may have influenced the Government in deciding not to push for including it in law.

You can read more on the Three website here.

Comments (137)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Track says:

    Good that we live different times, with WiFi readily available at hotels and cafes..

  • Sam says:

    I mean, free roaming is never a benefit elsewhere in the world at all, except EU countries when the law was introduced a few years back. Still, the tariff they now charge on EU roaming is cheaper than this much they used to charge pre-free EU roaming.

    • CarpalTravel says:

      Steady now, snarky blame brexit type comments only are allowed in this thread you know.

      • Alan says:

        Any idea what else we could blame?

        • CarpalTravel says:

          I think by the 4 page and 78th “Brexit Dividend” type comment of blame and snark on this topic, we got it. Doesn’t change anything though does it?

          Yet another demonstration of the division, bitterness, point scoring and relentless “i know best” (from both sides) that has resulted from an event that didn’t have to happen in the first place.

    • QFFlyer says:

      Actually, my Optus plan includes roaming data in a large number of countries (inc. UK, HK, Singapore, USA, etc.) and unlimited calls/texts while roaming. I only pay A$50 per month for this plan too.

      • John says:

        But practically nobody has been using it for 18 months. Have they offered a discount

    • Stuart says:

      The Non-EU Balkan countries have their own free roaming agreements:

      • Rui N. says:

        In fact, in the US free roaming across all 50 states was also mandated by the federal government (via executive action of the FCC, so not by any elected official). When cell phones first appeared, AT&T didn’t want for them to able to be used in all country for “free”, you would have to pay roaming charges if you left your home market/state.

  • Mike says:

    As a plus our uk data speeds will not be slowed by lots of visiting “Europeans” roaming for free – Brexit has given us back control of our own frequencies and returned financial control to uk quoted companies

    • Dan says:

      That’s a joke right?

      1. Three is owned by CK Hutchison Holdings – listed in Hong Kong and Caymen Islands.
      2. I really don’t think “Europeans” (your quotes) are slowing down our data speeds, just like they weren’t stealing our jobs or overfilling our tiny, small-minded island.

  • QwertyKnowsBest says:

    If you own a business, Three offer 10 unlimited everything SIMs for £50 plus VAT p.m. with a 12GB fair use roam allowance per SIM. Provided you contract before the new roaming tariff effective date.

  • Magic Mike says:

    Vodafone released some data a while back that less than 50% of their customer base roamed beyond ROI in 2019.

    So the minority who roamed were being subsidized by the majority who didn’t. Because EU roaming wasn’t free for UK operators, they still had to pay out to overseas operators for roaming usage, the EU just prevented them passing the cost on to their customers.

    Three’s user base probably has a similar travel profile to Vodafone, plus Three users typically (a) paid less per month and (b) blew through much more data than a typical Vodafone customer, making roaming usage very expensive for Three. So not surprising they dumped it as soon as they could.

    So now those who need roaming will pay for it, and those (likely lower income) non travellers won’t.

    Free roaming in the EU was one of those Brussels wheezes that was done for political reasons to try and soften the borders within the EU, and to facilitate the subsidization of Southern European telcos by richer Northern European citizens… Loss of roaming revenue due to Covid had a material impact on Southern European telco revenues…

    • marcw says:

      I´m happy with my 10 EUR monthly contract, 10gb data, unlimited texts and calls,… free EU roaming. And I live in the Netherlands 🙂

    • Rui N. says:

      Like we’ve discussed here multiple times, the Southern Europeans are the ones subsidising Central and Northern Europeans. This is due to the low roaming fees that they can charge. And since Southern Europe receives many more tourists that they emit, their telcos are at a loss.

    • Lady London says:

      Vodafone and Three user bases and economics actually quite different I would say. Voda is corporate through and through as BA has been. You haven’t seen a decent corporate deal till you’ve seen a Voda corporate offering some of them..well many actually..insanely generous.

      Three a bit more like Easyjet lots of roamers who paid their own bills.

      All this may change in future of course but you can’t really compare their user bases so closely.

  • Jamie says:

    I think you might have misunderstood the point about the Republic of Ireland. It’s not that customers based in the Republic will not be affected (that much is ‘obvious’), it’s that UK customers roaming in the Republic can continue to do that using their contract mins and data. That is a big benefit for us folk in NI who regularly cross the border.

  • Jonny says:

    Is my understanding correct?

    If you buy a Three Mobile Pay As You Go Mobile Broadband 24 GB data SIM (max 24 months) (search B01M3VJ2B2 on Amazon £44.99)…

    …it should retain the Go Roam 70 country. – it’s printed on the packaging.

    But if you activate the SIM after the October deadline will the benefit be honoured?

    I wonder how long you could wait before activating the 24 month clock but still retain the benefit…

    • TimM says:

      Three differentiate between their pre-paid SIMs into phone and non-phone devices. The 24GB pre-paid data SIM is not intended for phones and reports suggest mixed success using them in a phone. It is also subject to the 12GB ‘fair use’ limit outside the UK.

      The current best option European roaming appears to be Asda Mobile PAYG, which has a 25GB ‘fair use’ roaming limit and lower rates than Three. Asda Mobile’s T&Cs don’t say how and when the fair use roaming limit is reset.

  • JandeW says:

    So the moral takeaway here is that companies can lie through their teeth, just like our politicians, and get away with it….

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