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Will Brexit mean higher mobile roaming charges in Europe?

Tuesday, March 15th 2016 by Ellen Branagh

Britain’s exit from the European Union could lead to higher mobile roaming charges for travellers, the UK travel industry body has warned.

A report from ABTA and Deloitte, titled What Brexit Might Mean for UK Travel, warned that a ‘leave’ vote could mean that caps to mobile roaming are removed, along with a ban due to come into force next year.

In October the European Parliament gave final approval to a new law banning roaming fees for making calls, sending text messages and using data abroad in the EU.

From 30 April 2016, roaming charges will be capped at €0.05 per minute for outgoing voice calls, €0.02 for texts and €0.05 per MB of data and the fees will be banned altogether from 15 June 2017.

ABTA said its report with Deloitte looked at how the existing relationship between the UK and the EU has affected UK travellers and the travel industry, and the likely impact a “leave” vote would have on consumer confidence, expectation and behaviour, as well as on the industry.

British travellers currently benefit from several EU regulations that, while not changing immediately, could be significantly impacted by an exit from the EU.

They include caps on mobile phone charges, along with compensation for flight delays, financial protection for package holidays, and access to free health cover through the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

On roaming fees, the report said: “The EU has recently introduced caps for mobile phone roaming charges, harmonising the maximum charges applicable to consumers for using their phones in other EU countries, and will extend this to a complete ban on additional roaming fees in April 2017.

“As a Regulation (531/2012), the law applying these rules would be removed by Brexit, unless the UK Government acted to ensure it remained on statute.”

Also on the list of concerns is the impact that a period of uncertainty would have on the strength of the pound versus other currencies, ABTA said.

'Uncertainties'

According to the association, UK holidaymakers take more than 29m foreign holidays to EU countries each year, equating to 76% of all holidays taken. Additionally, 68% of all business trips from the UK are to EU countries, adding up to 4.6m business visits.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “Our assessment of the report’s findings is that a vote to leave will lead to uncertainties and may lead to increased costs for travel businesses and the travelling public.

"We recognise that people will approach this referendum by considering many factors – personal, professional, and economic – before casting their vote.

"ABTA has considered what a vote to leave the EU might mean purely from a travel perspective. Our view is that the potential risks and downsides are not matched by an equal upside for the traveller."

The European Commission previously said that restrictions on charges would make roaming 75% cheaper than current roaming caps for calls and data.

At the time, Spanish MEP Pilar del Castillo said: “This abolition of roaming surcharges has been long awaited by everybody: ordinary people, start-ups, SMEs and all kinds of organisations.”

Last year, Cable.co.uk reported that a survey by Worldsim found that more than half of Britons don’t use their phone or tablet outside the UK because of fears of roaming charges.

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