Leaving the Eu: Mobile Roaming Charges

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:47 am on 7th February 2019.

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Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 10:47 am, 7th February 2019

Delivering a negotiated deal with the EU remains the Government’s priority, and that has not changed, but I am sure the House will agree that we must prepare for every eventuality, including a no-deal scenario.

For that reason, we have taken a number of steps as a Government, working with businesses, consumers and devolved Administrations, to make sure that we deliver the best possible outcome in the event of no deal. The Government intend to legislate to make sure that the requirements on mobile operators to apply a financial limit on mobile data usage while abroad is retained in UK law. The limit would be set at £45 for each monthly billing period, which is the same limit that is currently in place. We would also legislate to ensure that customers receive alerts at 80% and 100% of their data usage so that all users can carefully manage that data usage. These would mean ongoing clarity and certainty for consumers.

I know that there is also a concern on the island of Ireland about the issue of inadvertent roaming. This is when a mobile signal in a border region is stronger from the country across the border. The Government intend to retain through UK law the EU roaming regulation provisions that set out how operators must make information available to their customers on how to avoid inadvertent roaming.

The Government are working hard to make sure that everyone is prepared and ready for all outcomes, and I encourage all businesses to read our technical notice, which we published last summer, on mobile roaming in the event of leaving without a deal. We should be clear, however, that surcharge-free roaming for UK customers may continue across the EU as it does now, based on operators’ commercial arrangements.

Leaving without a deal would not prevent UK mobile operators from making and honouring commercial arrangements with mobile operators in and beyond the EU to deliver the services that their customers expect, including roaming arrangements. The availability and pricing of mobile roaming in the EU would be a commercial question for the operators, and many of them, including those that cover more than 85% of mobile subscribers, have already said that they have no current plans to change their approach to mobile roaming after the UK has left the EU.

I hope the steps that I have set out today will reassure the House that the Government are committed to a smooth and orderly transition as we leave the EU. In our telecoms sector, as in all sectors, we are making plans for all outcomes as we leave the EU. That is the role of a responsible Government, and that is what we will continue to do.