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Spring Budget 2017: Mobile roaming charges outside the EU set for 20% rise

Thursday, March 9th 2017 by Phil Wilkinson-Jones

The cost of using your mobile phone outside the EU is set to increase following yesterday’s Spring Budget.

VAT charges currently only apply to roaming charges within the European Union.

But from 1 August the 20% charge will also be applied to texts and calls made outside the EU.

Chancellor Philip Hammond said the move brought the government’s policy on roaming charges “in line with international standard practice”.

It is also expected to raise £65m a year for the Treasury.

Roaming charges within the EU will be banned after 15 June when a law passed by the European Parliament in October 2015 comes into effect.

But there are concerns that British travellers won’t continue to feel the benefit of the ban when the UK leaves the EU.

Also announced in yesterday’s budget was a £16m investment in 5G and a £200m fund to help speed up the rollout of “full fibre” broadband networks.

The chancellor also promised to clamp down on subscriptions that automatically renew or start charging when a free trial ends.

A ‘consumers and markets’ green paper expected in the summer could propose stopping firms such as Amazon and Netflix from taking payment details when people sign up to free trials.

Mr Hammond told the House of Commons: “We will take the first steps to protect consumers from unexpected fees or unfair clauses, to simplify terms and conditions, and to give consumer bodies greater enforcement powers.

Consumer problems 'cost £450 a year'

“These measures will boost incomes, help family budgets stretch a little further, support parents back into work and tackle some of the frustrations that sometimes make it feel that the dice are loaded against ordinary working people going about their everyday lives.”

Gillian Guy, chief executive of Citizens Advice, welcomed the announcement.

“The chancellor’s announced crackdown on subscription traps which trick consumers into paying membership fees is welcome news,” she said.

“Bad business practices that rip customers off and exploit their loyalty are rife across sectors and jeopardise household finances.

“Consumer loyalty is taken advantage of in other markets – like mobile phones, broadband and insurance – where customers pay more for using the same provider.

“Our research shows wider consumer problems cost people an average of £450 a year. The government must use its upcoming consumer green paper to address shoddy business practices and help protect household finances.”

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