It was recently reported that EU roaming charges imposed by UK operators had cost British visitors £14.8million in France during July and August.
This was according to a study by Virgin Media O2, which is the biggest UK operator to have chosen not to reintroduce the fees post-Brexit.
Providers including EE, Three and Vodafone have all decided to do so, and Tesco Mobile is set to follow suit in 2023.
However, in most cases customers who already had contracts with these companies before roaming charges were brought back will not be subject to the fees; only new or upgraded contracts will include them.
Some smaller operators, including Lebara and Smarty, have also decided against reimposing the fees.
We asked Connexion readers whether they have been affected by the resurrection of roaming charges, whether they would consider moving to another operator as a result or if they had already found a cheaper alternative.
Roy Pembroke, a retired solicitor who has a second home near Castellane (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence) told The Connexion that he is on an old contract with Three UK which gives him 12GB of data when roaming in the EU for no extra charge.
“This does not last long and so I have solved the problem by using a mobile WiFi device with an Orange data SIM card," he said.
“It cost €40 for 35GB of data (as far as I recall) plus the fact that the local bar and restaurants have free WiFi. A little bit of planning can save extortionate roaming charges!”
Tony Spittle, who spends up to six months in the year at his second home in Mayenne said: “I have an unlimited data contract with Three that currently gives me 12GB of ‘free’ data in France.
“If I exceed this amount there is a fixed charge of £5 a day. All new contracts with Three don't include this free data so a fixed rate applies.
“If we had to pay £5 a day roaming charges that would cost us over £900 for the privilege of using the Internet, calls and texts, costs that were absorbed by providers pre Brexit.
“The £5 a day is a cost I'm not prepared to pay so will be changing providers unless the charge is significantly reduced.
“All new Three contracts taken out in the UK pay a flat rate of £2 a day in roaming charges in the EU, a cost that didn't exist pre Brexit but is, nevertheless, more manageable than the current tariff and one I'm likely to grudgingly accept.”
Maureen Read, who has a holiday home in Vendée with her husband, said that he is one of the people being charged £2 per day by Three for roaming.
“He will be changing his phone company when we get back,” she said. “We’re here for 90 days so it would be £180 per year, a lot of money for pensioners to find on top of taxes, electric and water charge.
“We’re not sure who we will change to, it depends on which company doesn’t charge roaming charges next year.”
Sandra Cliff, a retiree who has a second home in Côtes-d’Armor, said: “Both my husband and I have Plusnet mobile, and spent six weeks in France this July and August. We had no roaming charges at all.”
Retired PLC Finance Director Martin Crouch has owned a house in Charente-Maritime for the past 20 years, and became resident in France in 2020, but still needs a UK mobile for functions such as paying by British debit card.
He said: “I was with Three and they tried to impose roaming fees. I switched to Plusnet which does not charge for roaming.
“We also have a French SIM so that we can make calls within France and receive delivery notifications from French suppliers to our home.”
“We have a second home in the Pyrenees and the internet is installed there. However we now have to have an arrangement that covers our travel there and back, which usually takes us two or three days,” another reader, Caroline Ragouzaridis, said.
“My husband and I are both in retirement so budgets are a feature in our thinking!
“Before Brexit we were with Vodafone, who told us that our package was safe from roaming fees, and then left us high and dry when it turned out that it wasn’t.
“We left them and went to Sky Mobile. They charge a flat £2 per day, but it is calculated from the time you turn on your mobile data and runs a full 24 hours from that time, whereas other providers end the period at midnight regardless of what time you start.
“Sky is very good at keeping you informed as to how much time you have left.
“We just have one of our mobiles working on roaming for a trip to minimise the cost but as we go two or three times a year the cost mounts up and this is on top of our monthly internet charge for the house.
However, she added that this strategy “is generally better value than buying a prepaid package for my French mobile.”
“We also like the Sky facility whereby you roll any unused data monthly into ‘Piggybank’ and can then use this whenever we need some extra which we tend to need when travelling.”
In contrast, Peter Vasey, another retiree who has a holiday home in Auvergne, said that he is “not happy at all paying roaming charges.
“I have a contract with Sky, which uses the O2 network, and I have to pay £2 per day, yet if I go to O2 roaming is free.
“I will be changing my provider in the near future.
“We visit our home as often as we can within the Brexit guidelines. At the moment I have – prior to leaving the UK – purchased a pay-as-you-go SIM card that gives me 12GB of data and unlimited calls and texts to the UK for £10 with Three.
“The only drawback is that it only lasts once activated for 30 days so if O2 offered unlimited roaming I would be interested.”
Le French Mobile
Mike Hooper, who is retired and has a house in Sérignan (Hérault) said: “As a second-home owner visiting frequently, the £2 a day now charged by Vodafone is crazy. A 90-in-180 day stay for my wife and I [now] adds up to an extra £360!’
“Needless to say we are not happy with these extra charges – which in my mind is blatant opportunism and profiteering all in the name of Brexit – and we won’t be paying them.
“We shopped around and found a great SIM-only deal with Le French Mobile (LFM): good rates for phone and data when out of the house here in France. I’m sure others will do likewise.”
A reader who wished to be known only by the initials CLTW, and who spends up to 180 days of the year at his French second home with his wife – “subject to Covid restrictions and juggling Schengen days!” – said: “A few mobile providers still charge nothing for [roaming].
“I have been using Smarty since the spring. There’s a limit of 12GB per month on EU roaming. However, I have never gotten close to reaching it.
“I believe Smarty is an offshoot of Three mobile so use their network in the UK. Roaming has cost me nothing over and above my £10-per-month subscription.
“My wife on the other hand is still contracted to Three and was paying £2 per day when she used [her phone].
Three data cards
William Dawson, a retiree who has owned a second home in Eure for the past 18 years, said: “All operators promised not to re-impose roaming charges but all except Virgin O2 have returned with hefty charges,” albeit normally only for new and upgrading customers.
“In other words they have all broken their word and succumbed to unconscionable profits; otherwise known as pure greed.
“I have a maison secondaire, so internet and email communication are always important, particularly at this time of the year to view and pay national taxes and utilities which are now always available online.
“Prior to my French three-month summer visit I purchased a Three Mobile 24GB Data Card, this includes EU wide data roaming as standard. The price remains the same as in previous years.
“This has restricted my use a little but has allowed me to remain connected.
“When using the smartphone for voice [calls], avoiding roaming charges is more difficult.
“I have simply refused to pay; any incoming calls from the UK remain unrestricted so anyone who wants or needs to contact me can still do so, I just can’t (or won’t) return the call.”