One of the most common and topical gripes against Brexit that I see popping up on Twitter is the concern that UK mobile phone customers will lose the free roaming which new EU rules have secured for them.
It seems reasonable, doesn’t it? If you’re outside the EU single market you’ll no longer benefit from its protections. It makes sense.
But competition and commercial reality means it’s unlikely that the perk would be lost regardless of the type of Brexit deal the UK ends up with.
Let’s imagine some of the four big UK networks dropped free roaming the moment they were no longer obliged to offer it, what would happen? They’d simply lose customers to the remainder which carried on letting customers call, text and browse at no extra cost.
Three, the UK’s ‘challenger’ network, has long offered cost-free roaming as a way of drawing in customers and just this week extended this to customers visiting Singapore and Brazil.
In total the network’s customers get free roaming not just in the other 27 EU members, but in a total of 60 countries.
If O2, EE or Vodafone started charging customers for EU usage, why would Three match their actions rather than ramping up its advertising and taking their customers from them?
The other commercial reason a return to EU roaming charges is unlikely is because European networks will want to continue offering their customers cost-free access when they visit the UK which will remain a major destination for tourists and business visitors.
Assuming our eventual Brexit deal doesn’t retain the legal entitlement to free roaming in all 28 countries, EU networks will need to agree sensibly priced deals to access UK networks so that they can continue meeting their customers’ expectations.
Why would such a deal not include reciprocal arrangements so that UK networks can continue offering roaming to their customers when visiting the EU?
It’s hard to imagine why UK firms would strike such bad, one-sided deals.
And if you don’t find those thoughts sufficiently reassuring, how about the words of Vittorio Colao, the chief executive of Vodafone, who in February said it was “not very logical” to assume fees would be reintroduced for UK customers.
Speaking at the Mobile World Congress trade show in Barcelona, he added: “We treat Switzerland, which is not part of the EU, as part of it so why would we not treat the UK that way?”
So let’s heed the calls to listen to the experts and assume the head of one of the largest mobile firms in the world knows what he’s talking about.